On Wednesday from 7 to 10 p.m., the New York Times Big City Book Club will hold a live discussion of one of my all-time favorite books, Time and Again by Jack Finney. Although science fiction has never been one of my favorite genres I was drawn to the 1970 novel about time travel in 1995 when I learned that the setting was Manhattan in the 1880s, an era historically interesting to me.
The plot concerns advertising artist Simon Morley being chosen to take part in a secret U.S. government project where he would travel back in time to 1882 New York City -- just to prove it could be done. Soon Morley steps out of his 20th-century apartment right into the winter of 1882. He finds himself living in an apartment building modeled after the Dakota on Central Park West. These were the years when the Dakota and the Museum of Natural History were the only two main structures on Central Park West.
Imagine the days when horse cars and carriages caused traffic jams or when gaslights illuminated the streets at night; when El trains took shoppers to the Ladies Mile, Manhattan’s main retail center in the area around Broadway and 23rd Street.
Finley complements his intriguing plot with historic photos and drawings supposedly done by Morley to show the leaders of the secret project. It’s a
fascinating book, sometimes considered as a “classic.”
To join the New York Times Book Club and join the online conversation on Wednesday, go to firstname.lastname@example.org and enter “Join” in the subject line.