Cosmic wonder and bottomless sorrow are the two poles that Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival navigates, and the engines of propulsion are the eyes of Amy Adams. Arrival is a conversation between your brain and your heart. It is both epic in scale and intimate in its execution. It calls on you to consider the immensity of the universe and its infinite mysteries, and then it compresses them into the most intense emotion known to our species. If you believe in science, if you believe in the power of language, it is something of a religious experience. It does what science-fiction is meant to do in times of chaos and uncertainty—and to humans, when isn’t it a time of chaos and uncertainty? It reminds us that beyond our limited perception, there is hope.
Book: 10:04 by Ben Lerner
Time travel was the theme of the week. What is the significance of 10:04? Tick tock tick tock…it’s the time fixed on the clock tower after it was (and will be) struck by lightning in Back to the Future. Ben Lerner’s second novel is about time travel, in a way. The narrator, a writer working on his second novel, is considering his best friend’s request for him to father her child, which makes him think about the future. The present is scary: a cataclysmic storm is heading for New York, and he’s been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening condition. Global capitalism is failing. He can’t even tell his nephews a bedtime story without having a panic attack.
Meanwhile, in an alternate timeline, a writer working on his second novel is considering his best friend’s request for him to father her child…
10:04 is unrelentingly clever, which would be annoying but for its self-deprecating tone. It’s also funny, especially when nothing seems to be happening. Like the beloved movie it references, it breaks out of the prison of time to create parallel worlds where people realize that they’re living in deceptions—alternative facts, as they’re called today. This 2014 novel portended our scary new world, but it faces the future with humor and optimism.