My sister Nancy has a theory, or at least she did when we were growing up: that the world is quietly spinning faster with each passing year. That was how she explained the complaint of every grownup — that time goes by faster and faster, the older we get.
I was twelve when Nancy first explained this to me, years younger than her daughters are now. In those days, waiting for the next Saturday was just one step short of sheer torture. A decade later, months went by at a reasonable clip. A decade after that, seasons began to change well before they dragged into dull. Last year, even winter seemed too short. And then a few days ago I realized — hey! Where did the first seventeen years of the 21st century GO?
Playing with time
Writers play with time. Thirty years might flash by in a page or two… or an entire novel might cover only one single day. Fiction writers can even stop time in its tracks, or turn the clock back to a bygone century. Writing Oliver’s Surprise, I sniffed a distant harbor, trimmed the luffing sails overhead, and felt the boat beneath me plunging into waves bigger than I’ve ever imagined before—all in a time long before I was born. Is it any wonder that the faster our world spins, the more people enjoy time travel stories?
Nancy’s theory may not be true (though apparently it is a commonly held belief around the world). But as the pace of our real lives continues to accelerate, reading allows us to adjust the passage of time to our own preference. And that will be a real comfort in the shorter and shorter decades that lie ahead.