Lewis Carroll

‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.

‘Well, I don’t want any to-day, at any rate.’

‘You couldn’t have it if you did want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday — but never jam to-day.’

‘It must come sometimes to “jam to-day”,’ Alice objected.

‘No, it can’t, said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know.’

‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’

‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first —’

‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’

‘— but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’

‘I’m sure mine only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’

‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.

‘What sort of things do you remember best?’ Alice ventured to ask.

‘Oh, things that happened the week after next,’ the Queen replied in a careless tone.

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)

Anne Truitt

“In my work as an artist I am accustomed to […] tension […] between my senses, which are natural, and my intuition of an order they both mask and illuminate. When I draw a straight line or conceive of an arrangement of tangible elements all my own, I inevitably impose my own order on matter. I actualize this order, rendering it accessible to my senses. It is not so accessible until actualized.”

Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (1982)

Lidia Yuknavitch

“The more a person recalls a memory, the more they change it. Each time they put it into language, it shifts. The more you describe a memory, the more likely it is that you are making a story that fits your life, resolves the past, creates a fiction you can live with. It’s what writers do. Once you open your mouth, you are moving away from the truth of things.”

The Chronology of Water (2011)

Patti Smith

“If I write in the present yet digress, is that still real time? Real time, I reasoned, cannot be divided into sections like numbers on the face of a clock. If I write about the past as I simultaneously dwell in the present, am I still in real time? Perhaps there is no past or future, only the perpetual present that contains this trinity of memory. I looked out into the street and noticed the light changing. Perhaps the sun had slipped behind a cloud. Perhaps time had slipped by.”

M Train (2015)

Elena Ferrante

“Adults, waiting for tomorrow, move in a present behind which is yesterday or the day before yesterday or at most last week: they don’t want to think about the rest. Children don’t know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow, everything is this, now: the street is this, the doorway is this, the stairs are this, this is Mamma, this is Papa, this is the day, this the night.”

My Brilliant Friend (2011)     Trans: Ann Goldstein

 

 

St. Augustine

“For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who even in thought can comprehend it, even to the pronouncing of a word concerning it? But what in speaking do we refer to more familiarly and knowingly than time? And certainly we understand when we speak of it; we understand also when we hear it spoken of by another. What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not. Yet I say with confidence, that I know that if nothing passed away, there would not be past time; and if nothing were coming, there would not be future time; and if nothing were, there would not be present time. Those two times, therefore, past and future, how are they, when even the past now is not; and the future is not as yet? But should the present be always present, and should it not pass into time past, time truly it could not be, but eternity. If, then, time present — if it be time — only comes into existence because it passes into time past, how do we say that even this is, whose cause of being is that it shall not be — namely, so that we cannot truly say that time is, unless because it tends not to be?”

Augustine of Hippo, Confessiones lib xi, cap xiv, sec 17 (ca. 400 CE)

Trans. from the Latin & discussed at Harper’s Magazine blog.

 

Vladimir Nabokov

“In probing my childhood (which is the next best thing to probing one’s eternity) I see the awakening of consciousness as a series of spaced flashes, with the intervals between them gradually diminishing until bright blocks of perception are formed, affording memory a slippery hold.”

Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (1966)

Virginia Woolf

“Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality, has no such simple effect upon the mind of man. The mind of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second.”  Orlando (1928)

Sarah Manguso

“I tend to forget that my measurement of time is designed to keep me from what’s really happening.”
The Two Kinds of Decay

“I’ve never understood so clearly that linear time is a summary of actual time, of All Time, of the forever that has always been happening.”
Ongoingness

William James

“That one Time which we all believe in and in which each event has its definite date, that one Space in which each thing has its position, these abstract notions unify the world incomparably; but in their finished shape as concepts how different they are from the loose unordered time-and-space experiences of natural men! … [O]ur children make no distinction between yesterday and the day before yesterday, the whole past being churned up together, but we adults still do so whenever the times are large. It is the same with spaces … Cosmic space and cosmic time, so far from being the intuitions that Kant said they were, are constructions as patently artificial as any that science can show. The great majority of the human race never use these notions, but live in plural times and spaces, interpenetrant and durcheinander [confused?].” — Pragmatism