Timekeepers by Simon Garfield

Midnight tonight (31 December 2016) will be one moment in the continuing flow of time, no different essentially from any other. Only because human societies are organised by collective effort, and require punctuation marks in their narratives, midnight will be made significant. The calendar will change to a new year. There will be fireworks, sentimentality, TV review programmes, love-making, weeping, joyfulness, recrimination, black bun, Big Ben and plenty of falling down drunk. How is it, though, that we experience the flow of time in the way we do?

In this book Simon Garfield (http://www.simongarfield.com/) looks at some of the ways in which time is represented. He meets Roger Bannister, first runner of a sub-four-minute mile; spends a lot of time with the makers and advertisers of Swiss watches; looks at photography, management consultancy and the slow food movement; and examines several alternative systems for measuring time, including a 10-hour clock, an agrarian art project and the French Republican Calendar.

One key idea from all this information is that our rushing, fleeting sense of time is not inevitable. We have made it so. Although the ancients (e.g. Hippocrates) recognised that ‘life is short’, there has been a new vicious twist since The Industrial Revolution, and now even more so since the Digital Revolution. Time presumably passes in the same way but since clocks, watches, the factory system, telegraphy, and the Internet, we’re made to feel that seconds and minutes are ebbing away fast. The precise quantification of time presses home the acuteness of its loss more painfully. People are forever saying they’re in a rush, or don’t have a moment to lose.

Timekeepers is an exciting look at the ways we have perceived, contained and saved time over the last 250 years. I hope you find time to read it. I wish you a happy New Year for 2017, when the time comes, naturally. May it be unhurried, not target driven, nor pressured in any way. Plenty of time for reading!

Enquire at your local library. Check if this important title is in stock by consulting the online catalogue at https://www.sllclibrary.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/OPAC/BSEARCH

368 pages in Canongate

First published 2016

ISBN  978-1782113195

Simon Garfield

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