Time and Again – by Jack Finney

Another time travel story, this time set in New York City. Finney published this book in 1970, so the present is pre-personal computers, although the first moon-landing had already occurred. The New York City of Finney’s present time is one I recognize at the New York City of my own youth. His story, of course, does not reference the twin towers of the World Trade Center, since they were not completed until 1973.

Similar to the way Christopher Reeve traveled back in time in the 1980 movie “Somewhere in Time” by setting up an exact surrounding and setting his mind to the target time using hypnotic techniques, Si Morley, the protagonist of this story manages to travel back to New York of January 1882. Central to the story is also “The Dakota,” an apartment building on the west border of Central Park. Interestingly, the Dakota is today an exclusive apartment home. In 1980, John Lennon lived there when he was murdered outside of the front door. This is another fact that Finney could not have referenced, of course.

This is a different time travel story, insofar as there is no time machine at all, no technology to make it all happen. We get an in-depth view of life in New York in 1882, with some shocking imagery of poverty, brutally hard work, and the endless struggle to put food on the table, by the vast armies of the poor, as well as the privileged few in upper society.

For instance, a “driver” of a bus was a person that stood on the front platform of a wagon drawn by a team of horses. The passengers are in the bus, shielded somewhat from the elements. But the poor driver is outside, 14 hours a day, standing, driving horses, earning $1.90 a day.

Time and Again is full of descriptions of life in the 19th century in New York City, in rich detail, enough, you’d think, that you could time-travel there yourself.

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