Jack Finney wrote a much-beloved time travel classic, Time and Again. These are short stories that also play with both time and place. All of them are about 20-25 pages, and perfect to dip into between books or when you just have a little reading time.
As with most collections, I appreciated some more than others. One was way off base for me, but overall they were solid and enjoyable.
Finney was born in the Midwest, and that’s where he went to college. Then he moved to New York City and worked in advertising. Later, he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. All of these locales make appearances in his stories, and all feel nostalgic.
About the stories
One deeply chauvinistic story, Lunch-Hour Magic, is about glasses that give a young New York City man x-ray vision of only the women around him. I could hardly get through this one, written in 1962. It was full of a Mad Men vibe, including plenty of female objectification. I thought seriously about putting this book down.
But I didn’t, and I’m glad. Because Finney then segues into an utterly charming story. Where the Cluetts Are is about a couple who builds a Victorian house, accurate down to gas lamps and wrap-around veranda. Over the first few months of living there, they choose to inhabit that time period. They dress for it, read the books of the time, and drive around in horse and buggy. Somehow it works for them, and their architect simply admires their resolve.
A dreamy story called Home Alone is about a man building a balloon and floating above Marin County for two glorious nights. I loved imagining myself on that balloon, and seeing all the nighttime sights of San Francisco.
And Hey, Look at Me!, which is a soliloquy about grief, loss, and ghosts who need to be seen and remembered. In my own grieving, I’ve learned how we feel lost without that person who died. In this story, the protagonist also feels lost, but so does his friend who died. It gave me chills.
Another story, I’m Scared, has become urban legend and is referenced by other authors. Finney was a giant of time-travel fantasy, writing and publishing until his death at 84 in 1995.
There are several other stories in this collection, all of them unique and thought-provoking. Finney has a cinematic style, evidenced by how many of his works ended up onscreen. I’m in awe of authors whose writing is intensely evocative in so few pages. Finney allows us to inhabit his imagination throughout this short book. He was a time-travel treasure.