Brewer’s narrator recounts his past while hurtling through the Italian countryside on the Frecciarossa (the eponymous Red Arrow, an Italian high speed train) to a meeting that will alter his future. Plagued since youth by severe depression, which manifests as a haunting, ubiquitous Mist, he has recently undergone a novel treatment which has radically changed his perspective, allowing him to come to terms with his history and envision a life free from his crippling burden. But first, he must deal with the lone remaining thread tying him to his previous self. Written with elegant, painterly sentences and light touches of humor, Brewer’s tale examines memory, perception of time, the meaning of originality, and how these forces shape identity and self-perception.
What does it mean to own something? What is our relationship to work and to money? How does the interplay between these concepts affect individuals, culture, and society? These are among the questions Biss ponders as she probes the underlying meanings and effects of ownership, capitalism, and power structures. Written in an understated and at times subtly humorous style, her episodic essays offer keen insights and provoke the reader to question many basic assumptions about the system we live under.
Whether understood as a concept or a tool, time is elusive and can be perceived and put to use in myriad ways. History is full of examples, and itself serves to show the ever-increasing importance time has played in regulating our lives. This is the theme of Rooney's engrossing study. Using clocks and other measuring devices as a lens for charting our relationship to time--one that has grown to represent many aspects of our lives--he shows how various leaders, institutions, and ordinary individuals have used time to signify qualities ranging from grandeur to piety to learning.