Jonathan Schell wrote weekly columns in Newsday (and its sister newspaper, New York Newsday) from 1990 through 1996. This book examines the world-shaking events he covered during those years. Schell was writing in time, placing events in their historical context and casting an eye to the future. A thread that runs through the book is the "virtual takeover of politics by the burgeoning techniques of communication." Schell chronicles the changes engendered by modern methods of mass communication and the dangers posed by the passive system of representation these methods encourage. Schell reveals how critical a journalist's analysis of events is to a healthy political sensibility for the country.
Writing in Time chronicles the forces responsible for vast political upheaval and change in the last decade of the twentieth century.
Praise for Writing in Time:
"There is value in reading what an intelligent and skillful writer has to say on the spur of the moment — without our advantage of hindsight — about the day's events: Bush's pardon of the Iran-contra conspirators, the increasing prominence of Ross Perot, Clinton's much-discussed haircut on the Los Angeles airport runway, Oliver North's unsuccessful senatorial campaign. Although writing for the moment, Schell is aware that events happen in historical context." —Publishers Weekly
"Schell has the most unsettling quality of making one reexamine one's premises." —The New York Times Book Review
"From the man who warned us about The Fate of the Earth (1982), an astute but unsatisfyingly incomplete collection of New York Newsday articles from 1992 to '96. In a viciously partisan era, these essays are a breath of fresh air. Schell apparently believes that stating strong positions doesn't require assuming that anyone who disagrees is either immoral or a moron. While the air may be fresh, however, it is also depressing. A liberal cognizant of political realities in the 1990s cannot smile while looking upon the world. For Schell the bad news is not only the abandonment of the broader responsibilities of government, characterized by the conservative policies of the 1980s, or even that this virus has now infected an aggressively centrist Democratic president. The most critical concern is the political health of the American public, where there is seemingly little basis for hope: 'The public's appetite for illusion' was exercised in embracing the fantasies of the Reagan era. Complaining about politicians is a national pastime, of course, but consider this quandary posed by Schell: How can we believe both that our leaders are aloof from the average person and that they are spineless wonders unwilling to comb their hair without first consulting the latest polls? He suggests that the problem is hyper-responsiveness, not detachment, and this implicates the public in political decisions far more than most citizens admit. Unfortunately, while his pessimism is grounded in serious questions that should not be overlooked, the value of this volume is undermined by a fundamental flaw. How can one write a political chronicle ostensibly covering the years 199296 without articles from the second half of 1994 and all of 1995, thereby omitting the 1994 election? Schell explains that he was on leave during 1995, but this is a reason to not publish rather than a satisfactory explanation of the gap. Particularly disappointing because of the great potential demonstrated in these essays." —Kirkus Reviews