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Essays from the Nick of Time: Reflections and Refutations

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  76 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
A new collection of prophetic essays from one of the sharpest practitioners of the form

Mark Slouka writes from a particular vantage point, one invoked by Thoreau, who wished "to improve the nick of time . . . to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future." At this bewildering convergence, Slouka asks us to consider what it means to be human and what we
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Graywolf Press
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Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
This perfectly civilized little book had me asking myself an uncomfortable question: am I still, in fact, a liberal? Do I still subscribe to these pieties, still nod along to these homilies? The answer would appear to be yes, since there’s nothing more tediously liberal than interrogating your own liberalism. But Mark Slouka sometimes makes me feel like a borderline agnostic sitting through a church service, politely mouthing the hymns while suppressing the impulse to shout 'bullshit' at the bla ...more
Oct 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I won a copy of an uncorrected proof of this book in a First Reads giveaway.

The synopsis on the back of the book and above is very accurate. If you ever ponder these things, then read this book. Obviously as it's a collection of essays, they're highly subjective, and I personally found myself in line with the author's thinking more often than not, particularly when he focused more on the ills of the modern age and their effect on humankind (and the rest of Nature).

I found the essays in the Refl
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book for two reasons. 1) Slouka is the current Veibranz Professor of Creative Writing here at St. Lawrence (and has an office next to mine.) 2) One of the blurbs on the back begins: "Is anyone in America now writing essays that equal Mark Slouka's?" And I thought, well, let's see. I'm going to argue No.

These essays are erudite, provocative, challenging, and at times, laugh out loud funny-all with engaging, smart prose. He's currently teaching a course here in voice. And by here,
Nov 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book by Mark Slouka that I've read, and it's made me a big fan: thoughtful, angry, kick-ass essays. I particularly liked "Quitting the Paint Factory," "Ecologue" (spelling?), and "Listening for Silence." I also appreciated his take on education, and hereby nominate him to be the next U.S. Secretary for Education. As a scientist, I'd argue a bit with his take on science/math education, but all in all, a fantastic collection. Finally, he read at Brockport and did a great job....
Mike McQuillian

A solid essay collection.

Slouka is at his best when he gets angry, training his crosshairs on American ignorance in a variety of its forms.

Thoreau for the late 20th/early 21st century?
Linda Zelig
Sep 07, 2011 rated it liked it
An interesting perspective on such varied topics as Hitler's couch, videos, and silence. The comments are thoughtful and introspective.
Oct 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mike
This book arrived awhile ago but with everything going on, I haven't had a chance to properly enjoy it. I've only managed to read the introduction and the first two essays. It might sound strange but in addition to enjoying these essays immensely, I also really liked the introductory notes. Not sure that's ever happened before....most often I skip over the introduction completely. Anyway, I like his writing style very much. This is not a book I can race through, instead, I'd like to read an essa ...more
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Collection of fine writing and evidence of a clear thinker. The kind of essays that make one want to shake the author's hand (if that were possible) and say, "you said what I felt, but I didn't know how to express it". I am anxious to read his fiction, but I don't think I could like it as well as these brilliant essays. The deeply felt emotion demonstated in these award-winning essays demands careful reading. (Its the PEN-Spiegelvogel award, which sounds like something Woody Allen made up.)Wow.
Lisa Roney
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-essays
Slouka is an essayist in the classic sense, and one of the best we have in contemporary America. I had read most of these essays when they came out individually in Harper's, but it was great to sit down and read them all. Slouka always affirms my sense of the world and then takes me beyond my own thoughts into insights I wouldn't have had otherwise. Great writer, great essays about the world we live in now--about language and politics, about his own personal life and his observations of the worl ...more
Dec 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
I enjoyed the second half of this book more than the first. Slouka is an eloquent writer with a discerning eye; his essays about our current state of affairs in America were the most interesting to me, particularly the last one in the book, which dealt with our education system.
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A collection of profound insights expressed eloquently.
Jan 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
Brilliant. Just brilliant.
Dec 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
My first introduction to Mark Slouka. Absolutely brilliant!
Aug 10, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
Jan 08, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the first half of this collection of essays, the "Reflections" portion, very much. There are a lot of thoughtful insights on history, technology, and human nature. Slouka provides a Luddite's viewpoint, but a careful and well-reasoned one. The second half of the collection, the "Refutations," I enjoyed much less. There was a lot of partisan politics, and in tone, the thoughtfulness ramped down and the curmudgeonliness ramped way, way up. I'd recommend the first half to anyone, but the ...more
Ellen Keim
Feb 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
An excellent book of essays that really made me think. Although intellectual in tone, the author makes his arguments cogently and passionately. This is the kind of book that is worth reading again and again, mainly because there is too much too absorb in one read-through. I would add one caveat, however: the author has definite opinions which may or may not resonate with the reader's own. If you can't handle having your views challenged, then this is not the book for you.
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Kyle. Thank you for saving my life. We all have to quit the paint factory some day. I dope I didn't do it too late.

I just want to say that I feel sorry for anyone who hasn't read this book. Please read it. It is brilliant. But I must issue a warning. You may not want to work 40+ hours a week any more -- if you can help it. You may walk out on the paint factory, or at least dream of doing so.
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Mark Slouka is obviously intelligent and observant and well-read. I mostly agree with him about a lot of stuff written about here. But I found his general tone and pace really annoying. Some of this stuff has not aged well at all. Especially the one about not liking email. Fussy and overheated. Not my bag.
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
Some real gems here, a solid collection of essays. (I first encountered Mark Slouka last fall when I read his short story 'The Hare's Mask' which was selected to appear in the 'Best American Short Stories of 2011'.)
Phil Overeem
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely powerful, and written with an intensity of observation and figurative language that rivals Thoreau (one of Slouka's heroes). Several of these essays will frankly stun you.
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Slouka is - as my journalist friend says - a beast.
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Looking forward to reading more from Slouka. He is the first essayist in years to perk my attention towards fundamental, if regularly unaddressed, flaws and potentials in today's America (and world).
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. I'm not really an essay collection person, I like Stephen King length books for the most part. But Slouka's writing is precious and crafty and feels right short form. Highly recommend!
rated it really liked it
Jul 30, 2012
Jenny Hawke
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Apr 03, 2012
Chelsey Unger
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Oct 08, 2012
rated it it was ok
Apr 02, 2016
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May 20, 2016
rated it it was amazing
Mar 11, 2011
Joey Avizad
rated it it was amazing
May 29, 2013
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Mark Slouka is the author of four previous works of fiction including Lost Lake, a New York Times Notable Book, and The Visible World, a finalist for the British Book Award. His 2011 essay collection, "Essays from the Nick of Time," was the winner of the PEN/Diamonstein-Speilvogel Award. A contributing editor at Harper’s, Slouka’s work has also appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best America ...more
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“The case for the humanities is not hard to make, though it can be difficult--to such an extent have we been marginalized, so long have we acceded to that marginalization--not to sound either defensive or naive. The humanities, done right, are the crucible in which our evolving notions of what it means to be fully human are put to the test; they teach us, incrementally, endlessly, not what to do, but how to be. Their method is confrontational, their domain unlimited, their "product" not truth but the reasoned search for truth, their "success" something very much like Frost's momentary stay against confusion.” 3 likes
“History resists an ending as surely as nature abhors a vacuum; the narrative of our days is a run-on sentence, every full stop a comma in embryo. But more: like thought, like water, history is fluid, unpredictable, dangerous. It leaps and surges and doubles back, cuts unpredictable channels, surfaces suddenly in places no one would expect.” 3 likes
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