The following section, which touches on various aspects of language and time opens with Burt Kimmelman’s major critical essay on Proust’s struggle to define his own work. Translating Proust, Kimmelman quotes him as saying "Style is by no means an embellishment, as some people believe. It's not even a matter of technique—it’s . . . what? A painters’ colors? A quality of vision?"
The issue here is essential to understanding the works included in this section. To dismiss style as an "embellishment" or "technique" is to reduce it to the level of a process, something perhaps learned, academic, a thing that might be imitated. Kimmelman's essay draws us in to quite another perception, in which time is among the determinants. Proust after all makes us realize "La Belle Époque." We possess it and are possessed by it.
Kimmelman's essay is followed by works from the Aesthetic Era in which homosexuality became a subject that, increasingly, could be spoken or honestly suggested (or, in the case of Oscar Wilde, punished). Writers struggled to find a vocabulary that for some was a new spoken reality. Thus the era involved what, for some was a new language: "Mary Annes" (male prostitutes), "invert," and "intersex." This part of the section ends with George Sylvester Viereck’s “Children of Lilith,” which took François Villon’s Ballade des dames du temps jadis and recast in terms of men loving men.
The section then moves to the 1920s and, following an introduction by Gian Lombardo, reprints works by Harry Crosby and that era's deep pessimism, and new extensions of language, despite historical claims that the "Roaring Twenties" was simply an era of great prosperity and happiness.
Moving to the 1950s, the section reprints from an earlier issue of Talisman passages from a novel by Bill Barker, set in a world defined in so many ways by Hollywood. (Barker was himself a film star.)
This section concludes with an essay on life in our own era of the coronavirus, by the celebrated Romanian poet Carmen Firan, capturing the sensibility that has immersed us.