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Time (BIG IDEAS//small books) Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 27, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Time may be life's implacable constant, but it has undergone drastic and troubling revision in the modern age, argues this penetrating essay. Novelist and historian Hoffman (Lost in Translation) analyzes the simultaneous surfeit and famine of time that faces contemporary society. Our lives, she argues, have grown longer, but we cram ever more work and activity into each multitasking moment. Meanwhile, she contends, technology has chopped up the flow of time into a succession of disjointed nanoseconds, while banishing the natural rhythms of diurnal and seasonal time and depositing us in a frenetic 24/7. Hoffman places the derangement of time at the root of many of modernity's discontents: it underlies the ethos of conspicuous exertion that tyrannizes our work lives, she writes, and perhaps induces our growing epidemic of attention deficit disorder, whose symptoms mimic the pattern of contemporary digital time. Hoffman's exploration ranges lucidly across neuroscience, psychoanalysis and modernist literature to plumb time's mysteries. Her approach is smart and informed, but also pensive and a bit melancholy, wary of what's lost in trying to manage and optimize time; even time's ravages of decay and death, she warns, are inextricably tied up with the meaning of life. (Nov.)
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“Eva Hoffman is as accomplished a memoirist and critic as virtually any contemporary American writer. . . . Her criticism and reviewing are characterized by a crystalline prose style and intimacy of thought, and they range over an astonishing spectrum.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“It is one of those books. . . that hits a newly discovered nerve and takes a few steps further towards civilizing the planet.” ―The Guardian on Lost in Translation

“A daring and generous book, measured in style, passionate in intent.” ―The Nation on Shtetl

“Hoffman examines this philosophically fraught subject in unpretentious, clear chapters: asking how time affects our bodies, our minds, our cultures, and, finally, how time has accelerated and changed with the advent of the concept of "immediacy"--or, as she puts it, "what pace and density of stimulus we need in order to feel that something 'interesting' is happening.” ―Benjamin Moser, Harper's

“Best known as a novelist and memoirist (Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language), Hoffman deftly tackles this complex topic in a highly readable and entertaining way… This is a book for readers interested in exploring the world around them or hoping to see their surroundings in a new light. A fascinating and easy-to-read meditation on a deceptively simple concept.” ―Library Journal


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Product Details

  • Series: BIG IDEAS//small books
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Original edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312427271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312427276
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,461,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous VINE VOICE on August 27, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I had high hopes for this book, as a new entry in the generally terrific new series "Big Ideas, Small Books." (If the name of the series seems a bit self-congratulatory, it's easy to forgive that in exchange for their compulsively readable and clever pairings of authors and subjects: titles like Slavoj Zizek on violence or Jenny Diski on the Sixties should be on anyone's list of the best recent mass-market titles for intellectuals.)

But this is simply an awful book; it's a disorganized mass of superficial fluff that would be more at home as a bunch of trend pieces in TIME magazine than as a serious discussion of the nature and experience of time. It never coheres around any particular topic ("time" itself being so broad as to permit the book to cover anything at all), nor does it develop any single idea beyond the most vacuous level of ostensible insights about contemporary life. The book opens with an interesting, if already self-indulgent, memoirish introduction; this seems to set us up for a reflection on Hoffman's experiences in communist Eastern Europe and later in the US, but no such continuous story follows. If it were not immediately dropped, Hoffman's lapse into this (perhaps somewhat tired) genre of emigre reminiscence would at least promise a thread of personal narrative to connect -- this is how Dubravka Ugresic's brilliant philosophical fiction
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Kennedy on September 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Not particularly profound or fascinating; just mildly interesting and thought-provoking. This is a long essay or short book about the subject of time. What is time? What is humanity's relationship with time? Chapter 1 deals with aging and death; the concept of mortality and the human ability to know that our time is limited are part of the very essence of being human. It is precisely because we know that our lives will end that gives them meaning to us. Chapter 2 discusses time and its relationship to the psyche. The way we experience time in terms of memory and perception has profound effects on our psychological state, and vice versa. This chapter was hard to understand in spots. Chapter 3 is very short. It mentions briefly the cultural differences between different societies and how they manage time. We jump straight into chapter 4, which is all about the acceleration of time and the disjunction of experience endemic to modern life. As people do more work and process more information at a faster pace, there is no pause to internalize experience, and as a result people become psychologically isolated, with no sense of collective experience, no past, and no future.

Favorite ideas from the book: Modern life has substituted speed for significance. Time is both the condition and the medium for human meaning. Taking time to pause, slow down, and internalize experience is more important than ever in the post-modern age.

There are thorough notes, a bibliography, and an index in the back. Might be useful to somebody...

This book is short and interesting, but it seems to have a limited appeal. It's not engaging enough for the average recreational reader, and it isn't deep enough for the serious intellectual or philosopher. It's just okay. There's not a thing wrong with the writing, but I don't know who I could recommend it to.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David D. Kordahl on January 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Here's a typical sentence from "Time": "The Greeks acknowledged a sort of ontological heterochrony by naming two kinds of time: Chronos, the time of continuity and mutability, and Kairos, the temporality of the auspicious moments of opportunity or crisis--the kind of heightened and irretrievable instant that we need to grab by the horns, or the head."

I'll admit that that's not a bad sentence--not so punchy, but the whole thing makes enough sense and has the portentous high style of a writer who's out to impress. Now imagine, however, that an entire book were stitched out of such sentences, one after another, sometimes with logical connectives scattered in-between, sometimes not...and then you'll have a pretty good idea of what the experience of reading "Time" is like.

It seems a little mean-spirited to condemn this book--I have no doubt that Ms. Hoffmann, given the number of classy books she's read, is probably a splendid dinnertime conversationalist--but one, when picking up a book with a subtitle that promises to offer BIG IDEAS, expects that the author will take it upon herself to have at least some quixotic or heterodox notions on the chosen subjects at hand.

And that's just the problem. This volume feel's like a grad student's literature search, a detailed annotated bibliography that has required quite extensive work in the archives, but the writer hasn't gone so far as to put her own stamp on the material. So if you'd like to find out a superficial list of other books that deal with time--a guide for your own further reading--then this little book's probably not a bad place to start. But if you're looking for a fresh vision on any time-related subject, keep looking.

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