This post has been hanging around half-finished since the periodization kerfluffle some time ago. I’ll post it now as a place-holder for more thinking about that slipperiest of temporal modifiers, “now.” As in, right now, exactly now, this particular time — but that just-spoken now is gone & then, not now anymore.
Here are three quick literary markers (hatches?) for thinking the now —
1. Iago’s “now, now, very now” — an erotic, off-stage and unforgettable time, never visible but always happening. Rounding out the familiar line — “An old black ram…” — leads now down so many pathways of human errancy: sex, race, animals, the struggle for dominance…
2. Hardy’s world historical “Now!” from “The Convergence of the Twain”: “Till the Spinner of the Years / Said “Now!” And each one hears, / And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.”
3. Borges’s polytemporal “now” from “The Garden of the Forking Paths”: “Then I reflected that everything happens to a man precisely, precisely now. Centuries of centuries and only in the present do things happen; countless men in the air, on the face of the earth and the sea, and all that really is happening is happening to me…” (Labyrinths 20)