If your mind is anything like mine, it can stumble through a half-dozen different thoughts in a heartbeat. Right now, for example, I’m eating a cracker with hummus on it and remembering eating chickpeas and dill in Rome eight years ago, which in turn summons a memory of my twin sons as toddlers staggering around the Piazza Farnese in diapers. I’m also wondering — faintly — if there’s any lexicographic relationship between the words “humus’’ and “hummus’’ and worrying about getting crumbs in my keyboard. And all of this is happening in the time it takes my computer to come wake up.
The writer Charles Baxter, in an excellent essay called “Lush Life,” argues for a kind of writing that mimics and reinforces the way our minds experience time. “[W]e are often in two places at once temporally,” he writes. “[W]e are in the here-and-now, but we are also in the back-then.” Since the past is always folded just inside the texture of the present, Baxter says, why not attempt prose that manages to superimpose the two?