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A Sideways Look at Time

A Sideways Look at Time

2.8 7
by Jay Griffiths

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Why does time seem so short? How does women's time differ from men's? Why does time seem to move slowly in the countryside and quickly in cities? In A Sideways Look at Time, Jay Griffiths takes readers on a mind-bending tour of time as we know it.

In this delightfully eye-opening book that poet Gary Snyder calls "an exercise indeed in Dharma, poetry,


Why does time seem so short? How does women's time differ from men's? Why does time seem to move slowly in the countryside and quickly in cities? In A Sideways Look at Time, Jay Griffiths takes readers on a mind-bending tour of time as we know it.

In this delightfully eye-opening book that poet Gary Snyder calls "an exercise indeed in Dharma, poetry, and philosophy," Griffiths reintroduces us to dimensions of time that are largely forgotten today. She presents an infectious argument for other, more extraordinary times, the diverse cycles of nature, of folktale or of carnival, when time is unlimited and on our side. This book could change the way we view time--forever.

Author Biography: Jay Griffiths' writing has appeared in the London Review of Books, The Guardian, the Observer, The Ecologist magazine, and Resurgence magazine, of which she is an associate editor.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Wide-ranging, passionate, and engaging, A Sideways Look at Time makes us see the slipstream of our days in a new and entirely personal light. Though other books have stressed time's scientific dimensions, Griffiths is intrigued by what time "feels" like, how we experience it culturally and in our daily lives. Looking to the natural world, which tells time by its own measure -- circadian rhythms, monthly cycles, glacial time -- she notes that in some ancient cultures there is no word for time, and "yesterday" and "tomorrow" are the same. Children live in the "everlasting now," while women may experience time intuitively, in tune with their own cycles. Lovers, of course, have no sense of time. "But while nature knows a million varieties of time," she argues, "the clock of modernity knows only one," and Western timekeeping has increasingly tended toward standardization and globalization, down to the atomic second that registers Universal Time. The author dates our change in attitude to the Industrial Revolution, where a new emphasis on efficiency ("Time is money") led to a closer measurement of units of time. In contrast to this rigidly linear conception, she celebrates the "wild time" of unbridled nature, "the thirteenth hour." Drawing inspiration from writers and philosophers, native wisdom, and her own experience, Griffiths has issued a personal manifesto against the modern preoccupation with the clock. Deirdre Mullane

The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
"Time is money." How often have we heard this phrase of Benjamin Franklin's? In Western culture, it's a nearly revered secular scripture, driving our hasty, capitalist lives. But of the myriad, fantastic options, is time really just "money"? We seldom take the "time" to consider the alternatives, despite the fact that for many of us, each day is fairly indistinguishable from the next, the hours measured only by the linear march, minute by minute, of a digital clock.

In A Sideways Look at Time, Jay Griffiths takes readers on a delightful and intriguing worldwide tour of time, illustrating how other cultures use festivals, traditions, and the diverse cycles of nature to mark time's passage, rather than the ubiquitous wristwatch. While other "less civilized" cultures celebrate the slow, sensual, joyful passage of time, honoring elders and preserving folklore, the passage of Western lifetimes -- especially those of women -- is one marked by urgency. Not only do we live at warp speed; we accept increasingly narrow definitions of life stages considered ideal or worthwhile.

No wonder the phrase "time is money" is popular; if properly managed, it holds out the promise of prosperity. But Griffiths astutely notes that "One consumer desire overtakes another. Consumerism's drug-like hallucinations of happiness rely on the fact that once needs are met, desires must be aggrandized." In the end, even money can't keep pace. Griffiths would rather her readers made friends with time, so that time will always be on their side. Make time to read this insightful book. You'll be glad you did. (Winter 2002 Selection)

From the Publisher
"An exercise indeed in Dharma, Poetry, and Philosophy."
—Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.56(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Jay Griffiths' writing has appeared in The London Review of Books, The Guardian, The Observer, The Ecologist magazine, and Resurgence magazine, of which she is an associate editor.

Brief Biography

Powys, Mid-Wales, U.K.
Place of Birth:
Manchester, U.K.
B.A. in English Literature and Language, Oxford University

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Sideways Look at Time 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read reviews that compared Jay Grifffiths'new book to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I was misled. The text of this book skips between recitations of the various ways undeveloped cultures measure time to silly puns on time-related words, implicitly criticizing modern time measurement but without ever making its argument explicit: that by measuring time accurately and in ever smaller and more predictable units, Western culture has lost its harmony with the pulse of the world resulting in . . . Koyaanaqatsi. Even if she made the point directly, I wouldn't buy it -- non 'Western' cultures aren't inherently better because they can't measure time in horrifically accurate nano-bites. They use the technology they have to measure time as accurately as they can, and their lives are paced accordingly. But the sun on a banana leaf is no more 'natural' a way to measure time than the ocillations of a cesium atom. The latter is just more predictable and consistent. Don't expect to be enlightened and don't expect a coherent discussion or exegesis of anything. Expect lots and lots of examples, clever sentences and wordplay, and no point. Unless, of course, I've been crippled by my Western capitalist imperialist male dominated nature abhorring cultural brainwashing and am therefore mentally locked into expecting coherent narration punctuated by meaningful examples, and just can't get with the natural, nonrecurring, unpredictable, sightly off but totally natural and therefore undeniably beautiful and 'right' melding of text and meaning in this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the few books I just couldn't get through. Not because of the information - it's great getting to know other cultures' views on "time," even if you don't agree with then - but because of the way the material was organized.  There were tons of fantastic stories, and actually getting the research for these types of books takes an enormous amount of effort and [ha] time. But organizing all of this info in a way that doesn't leave the reader frustrated and just plain angry, should be priority. If you have patience and desire to break this book down for yourself - go for it - the stories ARE really interesting. The writing style, on the other hand, is just a slap in the face.   
Guest More than 1 year ago
After three chapters I discovered that I just didn't have time to look at time sideways. This book presented a look at time that wasted mine and unhappily, I gave up trying to figure out exactly what the author was trying to convey. There seemed to be no real pattern to the writing and it was exhausting to read. Maybe if time wasn't of the essence, then it would have been worth the read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never read a book like this. It's amazing!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The opening passage said it all with regard to who should read this book. Don't bother if you think you don't have enough time and everything in your life is driven by the clock (and you like it that way). I really enjoyed this book. A very well researched book, written in such a way that the reader feels like he/she is sitting down to talk about this over a bottle of wine. Although every book is one sided - you never get to ask the author any questions as you read - this felt as if Jay had pre-empted questions and was answering them as she spoke. Read it, enjoy it, and think differently about life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Need I say more? This book is certainly different. Read it when you want to get angry. It drove me mad. You have to work so hard at unravelling the meandering script to get to the points which turn out to be hardly earth shattering. The entire book could have been precied nicely into a pamflet.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a rare find is a well constructed series of arguments presented with a superb, readable prose. The author bases her thoughts on physics, philosophy, history, anthropology, and literature. Her passion for ideas and concepts is evident from the first sentences through to the last 'pip,pip.' Especially because I do not agree with all of the positions she takes but argues so well, this is a text worth a slow and careful read.