December 17, 2008

The Lost Realm of Night

Back in the 1970s, Newsweek ran an article about night-shift work and life as the "frontier" -- less authority, more marginal characters, fewer rules. I looked up the article once as part of a projected project on "night."

But this is the book that I would have written if I had the talent and focus: At Day's Close: Night in Times Past.

As the New York Times reviewer writes,

'At Day's Close,'' however, is less a history of night than a bizarre sort of elegy for it. In an epilogue, the author expresses deep reservations about modernity's profligate illumination. ''With darkness diminished,'' he warns, ''opportunities for privacy, intimacy and self-reflection will grow more scarce.'' While others blame television or video games for our cultural decay, Ekirch thinks we're on an apocalyptic slide into fluorescence.

The book's publication has another scholar thinking about writing. I am looking for a new long project myself, but it won't be the book about night that I saved clippings for.


Anonymous said...

The Night is beautiful. Mysterious. Awe inspiring. And a little bit scary. Kinda like sex.

And it's also something that 'modern' people seem to be losing touch with.

A while back I hired a neighbor girl to help me with chores etc. Raised on a farm - she was terrified of the dark. To the point that I had to walk her to her car after dark. In my reasonably well-lighted parking lot. I thought she was odd -- but I've run into this since then with people in other situations.

Frankly -- I find it terrifying that humans, as a species, could lose touch with something as primal as the dark.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts. Now that you mention it, I rarely get to experience true darkness anymore.

Good site.

Anonymous said...

I have experienced true darkness several times in my life: at sea while in the navy and on the prairie in northwest Nebraska are among the more memorable times.

Both had to do with celestial events: the Perseid meteor showers during the ocean crossing and the rising of the full moon over the prairie horizon. While the latter was not exactly "pitch black" the light of the moon absent any other kind of illumination made it look like a carnival ride.

I miss the dark.