Well, there is one novelist who has tried to abolish time, and her failure is instructive: Gertrude Stein. Going much further than Emily Brontë, Sterne or Proust, Gertrude Stein has smashed up and pulverized her clock and scattered its fragments over the world like the limbs of Osiris, and she has done this not from naughtiness but from a noble motive: she has hoped to emancipate fiction from the tyranny of time and to express in it the life by values only. She fails, because as soon as fiction is completely delivered from time it cannot express anything at all, and in her later writing we can see the slope down which she is slipping. She wants to abolish this whole aspect of the story, this sequence in chronology, and my heart goes out to her. She cannot do it without abolishing the sequence between the sentences. But this is not effective unless the order of the words in the sentences is abolished, which in turn entails the abolition of the order of the letters or sounds in the words. And now she is over the precipice. There is nothing to ridicule in an experiment such as hers. It is much more important to play about like this than to rewrite the Waverly Novels. Yet the experiment is doomed to failure. The time-sequence cannot be destroyed without carrying in its ruin all that should have taken its place; the novel that would express values only becomes unintelligible and therefore valueless.
From E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (1927).
I’m not a fan of Stein’s work, but neither am I inclined to go along with Forster and categorically doom to failure the sort of experiments with time and chronology that she undertook. Other views?