he clock is ticking T. M. Shine is not your average working man; he eats lunch alone, he smarts off to his boss and he excels at cheating the work system. Combining a zest for anal-retentiveness and a sardonic attitude, Shine considers the insane idiosyncrasies of living in his new book, Timeline.

Shine's book is just what the title suggests: a diary for a month of his life, which he documents by the minute and sometimes even by the second. Instead of cataloguing monumental events, Shine reaches for the most mundane moments ("the bottom of your shoe and everything that has stuck to it all day") and gives them flare. "8:05 a.m.: Neighbor who only watches PBS and is always full of historical facts rushes over the border of my property, stops short, and yells, " Did you know Lewis and Clark were gay?' That explains everything, I say." For 31 days, the reader is with Shine in his voyage through the purple haze of the 21st century, listening in on his stream-of-conscious commentary. A favorite target is the overbearing media he encounters. In one instance, Shine hears a news flash on the radio about Puff Daddy having sex on the beach. Puffy's publicist denies the account, claiming that "Puffy hates sand." Later that day when Shine finally gets to leave the drudgery of the workplace, a neighbor greets him with, "What's new?" Shine replies: "Puffy hates sand." In the hands of another writer, this compilation of the daily detritus of life might prove depressing. But Shine, a newspaper humor columnist, manages to make us laugh at the absurdity of it all.

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