Delayed Response: The art of waiting from the ancient to the instant world
Yale University Press (Footprint), $39.99 hb, 217 pp, 9780300225679
‘A book about waiting’ was perhaps a hard sell for Jason Farman to make to his publisher. Waiting, so the consensus goes, sucks. It is the elephant graveyard of time, the dead zone between something and something else. Who would want to spend more time on waiting?
It helps to clarify that Delayed Response is not the type of book that presents its topic as life’s panacea (like ‘tidying’ or ‘making your bed’ or ‘LSD’). Farman is not a waiting advocate; he doesn’t think the good life is spent in a queue. Rather, his book is about waiting as one of the telling contours of existence. Far from being the place where time goes to die, waiting is when the passage of time becomes most noticeable. And if you notice that you’re waiting (so Farman’s argument goes), you can start to notice related things: who is making you wait, for example, and what benefit it has for them; how time affects the meaning of messages; the social structures that value the time of some more than others. ‘Looking at the seams,’ Farman writes, ‘allows us to see how things are put together.’