Books: Prime, Pure and Just

ARNOLD BENNETT by MARGARET DRABBLE 396 pages. Knopf. $10.

"Quotidian" was one of Arnold Bennett's favorite words. Dailiness was his mania. The best of his realistic novels about hard life in North Staffordshire are triumphant patchworks of detail about people who worked in the fields or the potteries, their habits, routes and involuntary timetables. In his own life, even when he was a millionaire Edwardian novelist with a yacht and country houses, he wrote as many as 5,000 words virtually every day. The total result is practically incalculable. Margaret Drabble lists 84 "major"...