Synopses & Reviews
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 Sloukas 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.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Along with poetry, essays are one of Graywolf Press's great strengths. They recently published Geoff Dyer's remarkable collection Otherwise Known as the Human Condition
, and in 2009 they published Stephen Burt's excellent
, an essay collection about reading contemporary poetry that was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Mark Slouka's Essays from the Nick of Time
, which came out last November, was a bit overshadowed by all the holiday blockbusters, but it was one of the best books, of essays or otherwise, published last year." Jill Owens, Powells.com
(Read the entire Powells.com review
About the Author
Mark Slouka is the author of a collection of stories, Lost Lake; a book of nonfiction, War of the Worlds; and two novels, Gods Fool and The Visible World. He is a contributing editor to Harpers Magazine and teaches at the University of Chicago.