no time like the present

How long was that winter?
As long as I wished it to be.
But, not one day too late,
I was shaken from sleep
like an ugly cuttlefish
sealed in dead mucus
of her own petty angst.

(the agony… oh my.)

Hardened so beneath the sand,
the rain washed over me
restored my twitching tail,
my kicking heels, (cracker jack!)
or the wing that flashes
quick as the camera shutter
stealing a slice of light.

OK, here’s the photograph:
Central Park in green and gray
And every dark thicket
Tells me: "pull him over here"
forget your shame
There’s no time like:
never miss a kiss,
take everything,
winter’s gone,
make haste
make love
As if the years were really numbered.

(are they?)

Who can count evenly
with a pulse like this!

Man invented time
To measure sadness.
We stopped the clocks.

Susan Murray, September 13, 2002

No Time Like the Present is a novel published in 2012 by Nadine Gordimer, probably South Africa's most famous writer, and a Nobel Prize winner. Like most of her works, it deals with her country's social and political situation. It was her status as a Nobel Prize winner that inspired me to read this book, because I have been trying to read as many works by Nobel winners as I can.

As the title suggests, the book is about "the present", and is told entirely in the present tense. "The present" here covers the time between the end of white minority rule in 1994 up until the present day. The title could be seen as somewhat ironic, since the book shows a South Africa that is still recovering from its past and hoping for a better future, with the present being seen as merely a transitional period.

But before analyzing, I should describe the plot of the book, such as it is. Steve and Jabulile, a white man and a black woman who were both active in The Struggle, and who are both young professionals, celebrate the end of Apartheid by making their marriage public, moving to the suburbs, having two children and working their way up the professional ladder. While doing so, their experiences in their personal lives and their commentary on political events show the eighteen year progression of South African life. Although initially happy about South Africa's future, the couple and their various friends become disenchanted with the corruption and demagoguery of the government, as well as the violence and poverty of their society.

And that is pretty much it. This book doesn't have a plot, exactly. It is more just a very prolonged slice of life story.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Nadine Gordimer published her first story in 1937 and at 2012 has turned out a full length novel, at the age of 89. There is something to be said about a 75 year long writing career, a Nobel Prize, as well as the fact that she wrote many books for which she faced political persecution. And as for the book itself, although it is not explosive or exciting, she makes her characters real people, and the book managed to educate me about South Africa's situation in a way that simply reading a book of history could not.

The biggest problem with the book for me was the expectations created by the Nobel Prize. Seeing that a writer has received a Nobel Prize creates somewhat unrealistic expectations in me, I expect the book to be the most wonderfully poetically crafted work of life-changing fiction, and when a book falls short of that, I am often disappointed. However, without that expectation, I found the book quite good.

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