Time and Tide by Frank Conroy
Part of my quest to read as many unread books on my shelves as possible before moving.
Although I had plenty of books on my shelves that I owned that I wanted to check off and potentially leave behind before moving, there was also a small collection of library books that were even more pressing. After all, those legitimately had to leave my collection—and straight away!
One of the library books was Frank Conroy’s slim Time and Tide: A Walk Through Nantucket, which I had checked out before my first interview for my new job on Nantucket. Inevitably, perhaps, I had gotten distracted by Nat Philbrick and hadn’t ended up reading Time and Tide. With the clock ticking and mere days left until my departure for the island, Time and Tide finally had its day in the sun.
As a preparatory read, it was a sort of strange one. Conroy aptly named his book “a walk through Nantucket” as it is a very meandering set of essays, vacillating between stylistic wildness, like that of Nantucket’s heaths, and prim tidiness, like that of town.
Conroy arrived on Nantucket in the 1960s and had an on/off relationship with the place until his death a few years ago. Thus, even though he characterizes himself as a newish wash-ashore, he is very much of the old guard. As such, much of the book is devoted to tired bemoaning of how the island used to be, how regrettable recent changes are, and how sad it is that things can’t ever be like they were again.
I found out later that Time and Tide was Conroy’s last book and it certainly reads that way. While there is some chronological focus at the start, by the end the chapters just barely string together like a some kind of elegiac necklace, all honed in on the bygone days, but nothing else in particular.
If you’re looking to read about Nantucket before arriving, I would definitely stick with Philbrick. It’s difficult to say who Conroy’s book is for (or who I should recommend it to), but I can only assume that throughout this small island, others of the old guard were reading along and nodding sadly at his apt observations.