Clustered together beneath that grandiose title are dozens and dozens of pensÃ‰es, mini-essays, and journal entries, mostly on the subject of time--a fitfully interesting literary-philosophical farrago. Grudin teaches Renaissance literature at the U. of Oregon, and he seems to have the two great old masters of the essay, Montaigne and Bacon, in mind as he tackles his heroic theme with an unassuming style but quite deliberate gravity. While there's no particular order to all the pieces, one recurrent message is that ""we tend to be consumed by, even prostituted to, the miscellaneous concerns of the present, unwilling to carry the frightening sweep of the past and future along with us through daily life."" Crudely put, we don't know how to live in time, and Grudin wants to help us with some hard-won insights from the years he's spent wrestling with the creative process (e.g., trying to write this book). Fine, except that his carefully phrased conclusions have a rather familiar ring to them. ""Our days are broken by distraction, scrambled up into muddles of chores, errands, impulses, evasions, interruptions and delays, besotted with routine."" But with the aid of discipline and psychic exercise (remembering, imagining the lives of others, making elaborate plans, etc.), we can break through to deeper levels of experience and achievement. Finally, in an amusing utopian outburst, Grudin argues for the adoption of the French Republican calendar, with its neat ""dÃ‰cades"" and perfectly metric months. It's all reasonable enough (apart from those seven-day work weeks), but Grudin just doesn't have the passion or inspiration to carry him beyond mere competence. A generous design feebly executed.