When a stranger shoots his dad on a Costa Rican pier, Peter Counter hauls his blood-drenched father to safety. Returning home, Counter discovers that his sense of time and memory is shattered, and in its place is a budding new mental illness: post-traumatic stress disorder.

Counter begins to see violence everywhere. From the music of Cat Stevens to Jeb Bush’s Twitter feed. Walter Benjamin to Johnny Carson. Taskmaster. Video games. ASMR videos on YouTube. The world is steeped in gore. Again and again, Counter finds himself reliving his father’s shooting as his trauma is fragmented, recast, and distorted on a compulsive mental Tilt-A-Whirl.

Formally inventive and incisively smart, How to Restore a Timeline revels in a fragile human condition battered by real conflict and hyper-curated media portrayals of death. Channelling Phoebe Bridgers, George Orwell, and Jordan Peele, these essays look us dead in the eye and ask: What kind of life can we piece together amid all the carnage?

About the author(s)

PETER COUNTER is a culture critic writing about television, video games, film, music, mental illness, horror, and technology. He is the author of Be Scared of Everything: Horror Essays and his non-fiction has appeared in the Walrus, All Lit Up, Motherboard, Art of the Title, Electric Literature, and the anthology Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church. He lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Find more of his writing at and


Counter is a gifted writer, with a keen eye and what seems to be a ravenous mind. The book is dizzying and thought-provoking, clearly thought and deeply felt.

A deeply vulnerable book, How to Restore a Timeline encourages readers to reflect on their own pain.

An exquisitely exact mesh of author, expertise, and subject colours How to Restore a Timeline … Infused with the intersection between Counter’s life and interests, the essays produce new ways of looking, and new ripples in the timeline.

How to Restore a Timeline is warm, sad, and contemplative. Language and detail are components that make it shine. The guts of this book are dark and painful, but it never wallows in victimhood … If you’re interested in dark and unusual stories with sharp and clear writing, that skillfully wield humour, heart, and pop-culture, and that thoughtfully dissect pain and mental illness, then this constellation of essays will probably be for you.

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