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Essays from the Nick of Time: Reflections and Refutations
A new collection of prophetic essays from one of the sharpest practitioners of the form
Mark Slouka writes from a particular vantage point, one invoked by Thoreau, who wished "to improve the nick of time . . . to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future." At this bewildering convergence, Slouka asks us to consider what it means to be human and what we must revive, or reject, in order to retain our humanity in the modern world.
Collected over fifteen years, these essays include fascinating explorations of the relationship between memory and history and the nature of "tragedy" in a media-driven culture; meditations on the transcendent "wisdom" of the natural world and the role of silence in an age of noise; and arguments in defense of the political value of leisure time and the importance of the humanities in an age defined by the language of science and industry. Written in Slouka's supple and unerring prose, celebratory, critical, and passionate, Essays from the Nick of Time reawakens us to the moment and place in which we find ourselves, caught between the fading presence of the past and the neon lure of the future.
A collection of profound insights expressed eloquently.read more
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Citing E.B. White's comment on Thoreau, Harper's contributing editor Slouka describes his efforts, as Thoreau did, to navigate the impulse to both celebrate and fix the world. The essays in this powerful collection are divided into two sections: the more personal "Reflections" and the more political "Refutations"-but Slouka is never an either/or writer. In "Blood on the Tracks," for example, he works backwards from a horrific train accident in Connecticut to unravel the lives of the victims, the media's fleeting obsession with tragedy, and his own tenuous connection to the story. "Historical Vertigo," from 2003, juxtaposing time spent in Prague with his first introduction to e-mail, still resonates in an era of text-messaging and Twitter. Some of Slouka's sharpest political barbs are reserved for former President George W. Bush, particularly in "Quitting the Paint Factory" and "Democracy and Deference." But it is perhaps the somber "One Year Later"-written on the first anniversary of September 11 for Harper's-that stands above the rest in this fearless collection as Slouka wrestles with the sense of exceptionalism and lack of historical context that characterized so many Americans' response to tragedy. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.