"Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Over the past year, Thandiwe had developed an internal clock for when the seat-belt sign would go off. As the plane’s steep climb slowly tilted forward and evened out, she counted. Tick. Tick. DING."
"January 3, 1904. I am on my way now. Everything is packed. I haven’t even the time to write this. I shall continue later."
"Seeing her again now, I was ashamed that the day before I’d been so intimate with her, going so far as to tell her my secrets! On the bench, forgotten, was my book of Great Leaders: and that sight increased my shame. Angrily I opened the French door, and then finally she saw me."
"The very title of Mr. Winship’s rambling, labyrinthine tome about Chicago in the nineteenth century hints at the confusion that lies in store for the unsuspecting reader. His opus, claims the author, is both 'Alternative' and a 'History.' An 'Alternative,' one wonders, to what? Any attempt to compare Mr. Winship’s book with the work of serious historians who have addressed key periods of the century gone by would soon founder. For a text to be categorized as 'history' implies, does it not, that attention has been paid to historical truth and accuracy? Anyone, then, who ignores facts or, even worse, blithely distorts facts for his own 'Alternative' purposes has no right to attach the label of 'History' to his offering."
"Years ago I left the wide, flat fields of rural Minnesota for the island of Manhattan to find the hero of my first novel. When I arrived in August of 1978, he was not a character so much as a rhythmic possibility, an embryonic creature of my imagination, which I felt as a series of metrical beats that quickened and slowed with my steps as I navigated the streets of the city. I think I was hoping to discover myself in him, to prove that he and I were worthy of whatever story came our way. I wasn’t looking for happiness or comfort in New York City. I was looking for adventure, and I knew the adventurer must suffer before he arrives home after countless trials on land and sea or is finally snuffed out by the gods. I didn’t know then what I know now: As I wrote, I was also being written. The book had been started long before I left the plains. Multiple drafts of a mystery had already been inscribed in my brain, but that didn’t mean I knew how it would turn out. My unformed hero and I were headed for a place that was little more than a gleaming fiction: the future."
"Papa had been the USSR Math Olympics champion when he was sixteen, but all he’d managed to achieve was working for Goldman Sachs. He had competed all over the Soviet Union, from Tallinn to Vladivostok, and had even gotten to shake Brezhnev’s hand in a big ceremony when he won. But nobody cared about the Math Olympics in America. Mama loved to remind me of all of Papa’s sacrifices for our family and told me to go easy on him, especially when he did things that were “good for his soul,” like blasting classical music in his car as loud as humanly possible without caring about his passengers—namely, me. That morning, I massaged my temples, hoping Papa would get the picture, amazed that even classical music could be offensive at a high volume."
"The space probe Voyager 1 left the planet in 1977. Any month, day, minute, second now it will enter interstellar space and become the furthest-reaching man-made object, and the first to leave the heliosphere. This will be one of the biggest moments in scientific history and we will never know exactly when it happened. Three things would signify that Voyager 1 had crossed the border of the heliopause: an increase in galactic cosmic rays, reversal of the direction of the magnetic field, and a decrease in the temperature of charged particles. Voyager 1 reports show a 25 percent increase per month of cosmic rays. But its signals take 17 hours to travel back to Earth at the speed of light."