|University of Chicago Press|
the guardian Sat 17 January 2009
What a cunning plan, to write a book about a topic that exerts a particular fascination on book reviewers. In fact, Weinrich doesn't discuss deadlines until the very end of the book - though that arrangement does nicely mimic the person cramming a task into the last available minutes. The preceding outlines a broader philosophy of time that takes off from Hippocrates's aphorism: "Art is long, and life short". "Following the Fates and Hans Blumenberg," the author murmurs, "I will call this incongruity the Hippocratic time-shear (Zeitschere)", to which it would be invidious to raise any objection, especially when he is shortly to refer delightfully to "the misconceived life of people who are always busy".
So how should we think of our own span and what to do in it? We could write books of aphorisms, or learn from the author's mostly illuminating readings of Keats, Corneille, Wilde, Goethe et al. It all comes together in the brilliant final section, which unpacks the adage "time is money" into a fantasia on temporal economics (all the more relevant to current events for its silence about them). Odd that there is no mention of Einstein, but this is a deeply cultured book that graciously declines to outstay its welcome.