How to Read a Moment

E-book – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-4344-9

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-4343-2

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-4342-5
Publication Date
March 2021
Page Count
264 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

How to Read a Moment

The American Novel and the Crisis of the Present
Mathias Nilges

In How to Read a Moment, Mathias Nilges shows that time is inseparable from the stories we tell about it, demonstrating that the contemporary American novel offers new ways to make sense of the temporality that governs our present.
“Time is a thing that grows scarcer every day,” observes one of Don DeLillo’s characters. “The future is gone,” The Baffler argues. “Where’s my hoverboard!?” a meme demands. Contemporary capitalism, a system that insists that everything happen at once, creates problems for social thought and narrative alike. After all, how does one tell the time of instantaneity? In this moment of on-demand service and instant trading, it has become difficult to imagine the future. 
The novel emerged as the art form of a rapidly changing modern world, a way of telling time in its progress. Nilges argues that this historical mission is renewed today through works that understand contemporaneity as a form of time shaping that props up our material world and cultural imagination. But the contemporary American novel does not simply associate our present with a crisis of futurity. Through analyses of works by authors such as DeLillo, Jennifer Egan, Charles Yu, and Colson Whitehead, Nilges illustrates that the novel presents ways to make sense of the temporality that controls our purportedly fully contemporary world. In so doing, the novel recovers a sense of possibility and hope, forwarding a dazzling argument for its own importance today.

About the Author

MATHIAS NILGES is a professor of English at St. Francis Xavier University. He is the author of Right-Wing Culture in Contemporary Capitalism: Regression and Hope in a Time Without Future.