You may have to be a bookworm to fully appreciate a soggy, nostalgic Throwback Thursday post about, well, reading a book, but here it is: About 30 years ago, I discovered Jack Finney’s Time and Again (1970), an illustrated novel about a Manhattan advertising artist named Si Morley who is enlisted in a U.S. Government project experimenting with time travel.
No spoiler alerts are necessary to give you a preview. Let me first quote from the back cover of my paperback edition (pictured above): “Did illustrator Si Morley really step out of his twentieth-century apartment one night — right into the winter of 1882?” I’ll say no more about the story, except to say that if you love New York City and enjoy time travel stories, then this book is for you.
I discovered Time and Again in 1985. I had not heard of the book when I kept glancing at it during repeated visits to Barnes & Noble’s giant sale annex at 5th Avenue and 18th Street, but finally I decided to buy it. As I was reading along, soon I realized that it was becoming one of my favorite books. (It remains so.) Again, I’ll skip the details, but Chapters 7 and 8 provided some of my most cherished reading moments ever.
To grasp such a geeky memory, it helps to understand where I was in my life. In the fall of 1985, I had just graduated from NYU’s law school, I was living in Brooklyn, and I was working as a public interest lawyer in Manhattan. I had also become completely smitten with New York City. I doubt that I will ever again experience such deep affection for a place. If a big part of me will always be a New Yorker, then those early years in NYC will have a lot to do with it.
Time and Again spoke to that love of New York, and its story captivated me. Finney had a knack for writing the time travel tale — as his other books and short stories also attest — and he got it just right with this one. It may be as close to genuine time travel as I’ll ever get, a reading experience approached only by Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (2011). (In fact, in the Afterword to his book, King calls Time and Again “the great time-travel story.”)
So, if a tale of discovering olde New York is to your fancy, then you might give Time and Again a try. I think you’ll be glad you did. Don’t forget to close your eyes and see what Si Morley saw.