J. B. Priestley: Overview

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Author: Karen G. Way
Editor: Jay P. Pederson
Date: 1996
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 732 words

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J.B. Priestley was possessed by a vision of life at its rare best—rich, vivid, eminently worth living. What makes him a science fiction writer and not just another dreaming romantic is that he espouses theories of time that allow his characters (and conceivably his readers) actually to attain the rich life he envisions. Such theories—chronological simultaneity, serialism, multiple dimensions—are not easy to illustrate, but Priestley succeeds surprisingly well, in stories and novels and also in popular stage plays. As literary fashion moves on and Priestley's sedately conventional style falls from favor, it is his time stories, his personal ventures towards altered reality, that remain fresh and intriguing.

Priestley derived his theories from three sources: E.A. Abbott's idea that a fourth dimension would appear as time; J.W. Dunne's mathematical model of time as continuous, simultaneous, and serial; and P.D. Ouspensky's more philosophical view of time as a repeated circle which can be made to spiral morally up or down. What these concepts gave to Priestley was a non-religious hope. If there are other dimensions, then there might be somewhere to go after life's time...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420006582