on November 3, 2011
Time and Again is highly entertaining and appealed for many reasons. It was a chance find as I had no idea Finney was the author of The Body Snatchers and other works. He lived in New York and wrote advertising copy for many years - one of the agencies he worked for was Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample. This novel was written in 1970 and its protagonist, Simon Morley, must be an avatar of Finney's as he works in advertising on Madison Avenue. Possessing certain qualities unknown to himself, Morley is recruited by the U.S. government for a time travel experiment. The method of time travel is original. Morley and other recruits study the history, culture, and landmarks of their time destination and then travel using an intense form of self-hypnosis.
Morley ensures that his time and place is 1882 in New York City so he can investigate a certain mystery. Finney's wonderful descriptions of the city in the late 19th century are alone worth the read. Yet, he delivers with a tale that has great twists and turns and a palatable, endearing love story. As it was written in 1970, the New York of that period is also brought to life so that the book offers a double time capsule. Lastly, given my stint on Madison Avenue, I loved the references to the advertising profession (both in 1882 and 1970) and how J. Walter Thompson factors into the story.
Time and Again is a fascinatingly unique book written by bestselling author, Jack Finney (1911 to 1995). Originally released in 1970, it is a time travel / romance complete with photographs and drawings. It tells the story of a man by the name of Simon Morley who is recruited for a top secret experiment - to travel back in time to New York City in the year 1882. But this is no regular time travel tale. Rather, what you will read is an amazingly detailed recreation of life as it was in the New York of 1882. From fashion to landscape, from societal norms to politics, never before have I read a book with such intensely vibrant details. Into the storyline, numerous photographs and drawings are provided and described through the eyes of Simon. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the antique photographs of the characters.
The plot is interesting and well planned, and although the intense descriptions slow the pace of the novel, the rich writing and descriptions truly make this story play like a movie in your mind, making the characters real, larger than life. This story is alive and with lovely flowing simple prose, it is a story that truly does pull you back into 1882. The time travel storyline is entirely credible and realistically believable. It is easy to see why this book has become a beloved classic.
If a visit to New York city has always been your dream, read this book to get to know the city. If you have visited New York city before, read this book to bring back memories of your trip. And if you live in New York, read this book to experience the historical growth and vibrancy of this city in a gentler era.
on June 23, 2004
To get it straight at the start, Jack Finney's novel Time and Again is not a great work of literature; it's an amiable and charming, if peculiar, rather lightweight hybrid of at least three genres--the mystery/spy/government-conspiracy novel, the historical romance and the nostalgic travelogue, with a short bow in the direction of science-fiction. It is not a definitive novel of time-travel; its method of changing eras is not far from squeezing your eyes really tightly together and tapping your heels together three times, though the theoretical basis is just a smidgen sounder than for Dorothy in Oz. It is not a great romance, though it is romantic. It is not even science fiction--well, okay, okay, to be kind, Finney's straight-faced use of Relativity theory allows it to barely squeeze under the fence into the field. Its plot is flimsy, with more holes than the Detroit infield, and some of its characters are mostly cardboard cut-outs to be moved here and there by the stage-hands moving the plot along. And you know what? I loved every silly, odd, funny, charming, implausible, exciting, interesting, occasionally poignant page of it.
Why? Because rarely will you find a book where it's so obvious that the author had as much sheer fun writing 'Time and Again' as you'll have reading it. His protagonist, Simon Morley, keeps using words such as 'excited", "pleased" and 'glad' and phrases like "happy to be here" throughout the book, the book is full of happily excited people, and it's clear Morley's a fictional rubber-necking time tourist through which Finney has the time of his life swanning vicariously around the now-vanished hotels and theaters and civic buildings of Old New York. It's more than just travelogue, though. Finney was able to catch the details of day-to-day life for all these now-vanished people, known to us now only by old sepia photographs and antique knickknacks and a few old buildings which have escaped the demolishers. But then, it was their world, as familiar as ours is to us: that's where they lived their lives. Well, we'll be known the same way one day, after all--our day-to-day is going to be someone else's history up ahead, and in 'Time and Again', everyone wonders and asks Morley, what was it like, back then? what was it really *like*?
As a science-fiction author, Finney never showed all that much interest in the future but was fascinated with and nostalgic for the past, in particular what came to be called 'The Good Years' for America and the industrialised world, a golden-afternoon period of increasing world prosperity based on accelerating technological progress and an uncrowded world at relative peace, its resources yet to be depleted--at least for the burgeoning middle-class and higher--beginning about 1880 and coming to a calamitous end in 1914. Through 'Time and Again' and his other time-travel novels and stories, it's clear that Finney mourned the loss of that world (as who wouldn't?), seeing the First and Second World Wars as hideous deviations from humanity's real path, one that we resumed, too briefly, between the late 1980's and September 11 2001.
That the past and its people actually existed and still exist somewhere to be visited is a theme throughout much of Finney's short stories. His collection, 'About Time', collects a number of overtly time-travel stories, and another, 'I Love Galesburg in the Springtime', contains the nifty eponymous time-travel story as well as other science fictional themes). Besides 'Time and Again', at least two of his novels are explicitly about time-travel: its darker sequel, 'From Time to Time', which contains a chapter, in the opinion of this unworthy one, which is alone worth the price of the book, mostly just a front-porch conversation between several people on a hot New York summer evening, it's a loving evocation of daily life in the wide community of vaudeville performers and just may have been the best single piece of writing that Finney ever did, and an out-of-print novel called 'Marion's Wall', a lovely, funny ghost story in which a silent-movie queen who died relatively young comes into the lives of a modern (1970's) Hollywood couple--in it, Finney evokes the Silver Screen era as it impinges on, and occasionally collides with, the modern day.
The plot of 'Time and Again' revolves around-- nawwww, it's really not that important. Really. Just go read the book. As long as you don't demand it to be Great Literature, you'll have a great time. And, like me, you'll probably recommend it to everyone you know as a 'Hey, ya gotta read this!' book, and re-read it yourself from time to time. Enjoy!
on March 20, 2004
Author Jack Finney (1911-1995), among his other writing accomplishments, penned two great, influential science-fiction novels: the 1955 alien invasion story "The Body Snatchers," the source for three great movies (with "Invasion of..." usually tacked onto the front), and this 1970 subtle romance about time travel. It's a novel that many people hold close to their hearts, and like the movie "Somewhere in Time," has the magic to allure you with the wonder of traveling back to a simpler time -- 1880s New York in this case -- and exploring in depth a world so unlike your own. Finney, with meticulous detail and the support of numerous old photographs and drawings from the period (this is referred to as an "illustrated novel") recreates New York in 1882, letting us and the main character, Si Morley, marvel as we walk over the old streets, see places where one day great skyscrapers will stand, gaze on a traffic jam of hansom cabs, discover the arm of the Statue of Liberty sitting in Madison Square awaiting the rest of its body, play old parlor games in a boarding house, and look at Fifth Avenue when it was a thin street of trees and apartments. People who have lived in New York will especially adore these decriptions of the vanished city and the comparision Finney makes between the "modern" city (1970; vanished now to us as well) and the 1880s city. However, even if you've never been to New York in your life, you'll feel like you have after reading this. That's an incredible compliment to pay to a writer.
"Time and Again" won't please readers looking for quick action and thrills. It is a leisurely book that takes its time to build up the central situation: the U.S. government has found a possible method to travel back in time through purely mental means, and believes that young artist Si Morely fits the profile of the person who can achieve it. Once the books moves to the actual time traveling, the focus is mostly on the experience of being in another time and Si's discovery of how it affects him...especially when he feels he may be falling in love with a girl from the time. There is, however, a mystery simmering inside the story, and Si sets himself out to unravel it. What will the consequences be for history itself if he interferes? And what does the government really want to achieve with this project?
The last third of the book is tense and suspenseful, and contains an incredible and lengthy description of a disastrous event that ranks with the most vivid visual writing I've ever read. And the resolution is nothing short of perfect; Finney delivers the most satisfying conclusion. However, the book takes patience. Let Finney's prose, his wonderful main character Si, and his ability to pull you back in time with him sweep you away -- you won't regret it when the journey is over. Even if you never read science fiction or claim to dislike it, this is one book you'll find it difficult not to fall for.
on September 3, 2003
Let me say first of all that I loved this book. Let me say secondly that I do not like New York City very much. No matter - Jack Finney, for all his writing faults, creates a viable and enjoyable time travel story. Jack Finney also shows himself to be somewhat of a bigot, but that didn't bother me either - hey, Hemmingway was an alchoholic, but that isn't why I don't like much of his work. Finney's description of old New York City in 1882 was, to me, thoroughly enjoyable. I would live there whereas I would never live in what it is now. In 50 years, if we're still here, I think Finney will be seen as a kind of visionary - because I believe that time travel can be (is) a reality...and I think his theory on how to do it is not that far off. I believe that DNA is far more powerful than we know. I also believe that, in our subconscious, we can access the memories of our past, given the proper stimulus, state of mind, and location - so to me the storyline is not at all farfetched. Yes, the plot itself has a few flaws. For instance, why did Si and Julia not simply go back to the room at the Dakota when they were being hunted. This book is not meant to be a heavy read. It is meant to be fun - and it is. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose, judging by the vehemently differing opinions on the value of this best seller. I read very few fiction books, but this one I would recommend. It actually inspired me to write a time travel novel of my own.
on August 3, 2003
I waited for this book to deliver, and I waited.
The author gives more than enough detail about old NYC, which is great if you enjoy imagining NYC before the Statue of Liberty stood tall. The story is good, and but loses its zest with an overkill of the obvious. This 400-page book could have been written in 300.
Also, this story is simply dated. The author uses the language of the 1950's calling women with jobs "office girls" and African Americans "Negros." The book was published in 1970, and thus pre-dates the Twin Towers, the murder of John Lennon at one of the book's most significant landmarks, The Dakota.
But that does not excuse another annoying problem: story holes. For instance, the military combs through all its records to determine that our protagonist has the "right stuff" for time travel. One character in particular, Rube, envies our leading man, Si, for his good luck in being selected for time travel. This implied to me, at least, that Si has a rare composition that might predispose him for greatness.
A short time later, Si's girlfriend proves equally able, on a whim, to travel with him on an excursion back in time, and by allowing her to join him, Si proves himself quite ordinary.
Thus, for me, the the story became contradictory, hollow and strained.
While enjoyable, Time and Again fails to live up to its potential. The author barely addresses the ramifications of time travel and over indulges in historical and romantic descriptions. Others have found this book magical. I enjoyed it, but I was not carried away with its charm.
on June 1, 2003
I enjoy time travel books and have read a number of books about time travel from authors as varied as Mark Helprin, Gene Wolf, Jorges Borges, Italo Calvino, William S. Burroughs, Martin Amis, Salmon Rushdie, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. That being said, this Jack Finney novel fascinated me with its original (to me anyway) approach to time travel. I was delighted as he methodically laid out his method of time travel and I found it to be a very fun and charming. If you are intrigued by old New York or time travel, I suspect this book will be a very enjoyable read.
The fantasy aspect is done in such a way that the book seems almost a work of magical realism but the execution (referring to writing style) is very different than that of any magical realist authors I am familar with. In some ways the writing style is very obsessed with detail. The brick by brick description of the city works very well within the framework of the novel at times, but there are other times that it clearly detracts from the momentum and readability. The dialogue is a bit rough and awkward most of the time but not so much that it ruined the novel (it was still a fun read). The reactions of the characters to events and each others' statements was awkward and reminiscent of pulp writers of the 70s. By that I mean that the actions, choices, statements of the characters seemed very contrived at times. The author knew which way he wanted the events to go, and Finney manhandles his characters to make sure they do and say the correct things in order that plot proceeds as planned. This happens often without regard for previous character development or common sense.
Overall, I didn't regret reading the novel in fact it was a page turner, but I really would like to see a higher caliber writer approach this type of time travel because I felt that some limitations of Finney definitely detracted from the book's success. In music one band will often "cover" a song from another band. Reading this novel I couldn't help but wish that Helprin or Rushdie or some other great writer would do a "cover" of this book.
on May 24, 2003
I always recommend this book to people. I love it.
I love the description of NY history and the details of it. I'm from New York and, after reading some of the other reviews, I see that the details were less interesting to other people. But, elements such as: Trinity Church was the tallest building, City Hall was "uptown" (I love these!), The Statue of Liberty's head was visible but unassembled - I was lost in the scenery, what NY was like, and riveted by the history.
When I started to read the book, I thought Finney bit off way more than any book can chew: a time-travel, love story, historical fiction, mystery all in one - ha, this guy is full of himself. Then I kept reading. He pulled it off famously. I was taken in and absorbed, riveted. New York then. The story - I was swept away. The intrigue - a page turner.
I simply love this book. I adore it. I loved reading about this time period in NY, about places I know now, and with the story and style used. Just wonderful.
Side note: The first time I came across it I was a student and had a job at a restaurant called "Time and Again." The whole staff was reading it and passing it around to one another. I'm a rebel and rejected the notion. A bit later, I read it. It stands as the book I always apologize for loving as much as I do, yet I come as close as I can to making everyone read it. It's one of my favorite fairy tales, told with that terrific historical accuracy and detail.
I didn't care much for his other books, and I thought that the sequel to this was awful - but, oh, give this one a shot. Particularly if you're a New Yorker. It's just so entertaining!
on January 27, 2003
I first came across the name of this book and the author in the book collecting work by Ellis "Book Finds". I enjoy science fiction and time travel stories so I assumed that if a book is worth collecting, it must be worth reading. I wasn't disappointed.
I thoroughly enjoyed the accounts of the time period, as seen by the hero of the book, and the intrigue he gets caught up in (and how it ties to his modern day girlfriend) and they pushed me through the book as a good story should, yet I was getting a bit of a history lesson at the same time.
I will say that as far as science fiction stories go, this isn't the greatest as the science part of the story is a bit weak and if taken away we'd still be left with a period mystery. But knowing the story is being told by the modern onlooker makes it a better story and the situations that he finds himself in because of the time shifts increase the tension.
Anyone enjoying this book because of the time period and setting (end of the nineteenth century New York) might also find the mystery/detective period novels by Caleb Carr to be good reads as well. I also found those, by coincidence, from the same source.
I give a good recommendation for "Time and Again' to any enjoying a good period mystery with the added benefit of time travel thrown in the mix.
on September 10, 2002
Graphic artist Si Morely of NY City is recruited by a group of visionaries who run the Project--a highly-classified scientific experiment involving traveling back into the past. Once he can accept this temporal impossibility (Einstein would argue), Si enthusiastically throws himself into the project, which involves study, practice and total immersion into the NY of 1882. The vehicle is not a machine--rather a building which still exists from the target date in the past.
But can Si merely Observe and enjoy the flavor of bygone days in his favorite city?
How can he obtain the real feeling of this same place in a parallel time, without actually becoming involved with the actual people who are living then? Who knows the risk of slightly altering even trivial things--the "twig in the stream" effect which concerns the conscientious directors? Too much meddling, however well-intentioned, could wreak havoc with the future, which must be protected at all costs. How far does the Board have the right to play god, to alter events in the inviolate past, in order to suit themselves or their American ideas? Does any man or group have the right to rewrite/revise history, as in Orwell's 1984?
Si also has a personal mission: to discover the details of a mysterious death in his girlfriend's step-father's family. An odd burial out west, an almost burned letter of confession, plus a note to arrange a clandestine meeting provide sufficient lure for adventurous Si, but what will happen if the hero himself becomes involved with a lady in the past? Jack Finney's plotting is highly innovative, offering surprises and twists up to the very end. His meticulous research recreates the milieu to perfection, though he spends countless paragraphs to describe buildings and locations which are meaningless to readers unfamiliar with New York City. My main concern is the uneven pacing; he stalls us for pages, then suddenly overwhelms us with non-stop action--until we are panting along with the protagonists.
things considered, this is one dilly of a Time Travel novel. Complete with woodcuts, photographs and quotes from actual newspapers, this book takes readers back to the great fire of 1882. But wo which world will Si give his loyalty? For sci fi addicts from 16 up--You Are There!