Monday, September 24, 2012

This is a secret

[I am writing this after the household has fallen asleep.]

Clare: This is a secret: sometimes I am glad when Henry is gone. Sometimes I enjoy being alone. Sometimes I walk through the house late at night and I shiver with the pleasure of not talking, not touching, just walking, or sitting, or taking a bath. Sometimes I lie on the living room floor and Listen to Fleetwood Mac, the Bangles, the B-53's, the Eagles, bands Henry can't stand. Sometimes I go for long walks with Alba and I don't leave a note saying where I am. Sometimes I meet Celia for coffee, and we talk about Henry, and Ingrid, and whoever Celia's seeing that week. Sometimes I hang out with Charisse and Gomez, and we don't talk abut Henry, and we manage to enjoy ourselves. Once I went to Michigan and when I came back Henry was still gone and I never told him I had been anywhere. Sometimes I get a baby-sitter and I go to the movies or I ride may my bicycle after dark along the bike path by Montrose beach with no lights; it's like flying.

Sometimes I am glad when Henry's gone, but I'm always glad when he comes back.

I must be the last person on the planet to have read Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. A friend had been pressing it on me, loaned me her copy, and I've kept it on standby for months. Being that I'd just read a story that featured a time-traveler's knowledge of the future in all its free-will-versus-determinism glory, now seemed like the right time.

Best book ever? I'll have to tell my friend, No. But very charming, and worth reading. I'm a little puzzled actually, because this friend loves science fiction and disdains romance; this novel, however, has just a hint of sf in its premise, which is mostly incidental to a first-class love story.

It does remind of a few books that I do love, namely, The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers (for the tone, the character interaction) and What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (for what it says about absence being fully present). Also, the several quotes from A.S. Byatt's Possession has me thinking about rereading that book.

Part of me simply wants to find flaws in this book that seems to be everybody's darling. Clare's too perfect (her loving The Eagles, a definite flaw, seems out of character). The amount of sex this couple has is unrealistic. The lottery didn't seem fair. Some passages tried too hard to be poetic. But who am I kidding? I was late for work one day last week cuz I just had to read to the end of the chapter, and I spent a good chunk of Saturday teary-eyed as I finished it off.

Henry: [...] Running is many things to me: survival, calmness, euphoria, solitude. It is proof of my corporeal existence, my ability to contol my movement through space if not time and the obedience, however temporary, of my body to my will. As I run I dispace air, and things come and go around me, and the path moves like a filmstrip beneath my feet. I remember, as a child, long before video games and the Web, threading filmstrips into the dinky projector in the school library and peering into them, turning the knob that advanced the frame at the sound of a beep. I don't remember anymore what they looked like, what they were about, but I remember the smell of the library, and the way the beep made me jump every time. I'm flying now, that golden feeling, as if I could run right into the air, and I'm invincible, nothing can stop me, nothing can stop me, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing — .

This same friend who loaned me The Time Traveler's Wife wonders if I've read other books that jump around in the chronology, books with a nonlinear narrative structure. Of course I have, I thought, but titles fail me, and my bookshelves are staring me down. Possibly The English Patient, but I don't have a copy on hand to check. Can you think of others?


Mrs. Henchy said...

A Visit From the Goon Squad jumps all over the place to the point that my bookclub made a chart to nail down the rea timeline. I'd recommend that!

Stefanie said...

Glad you enjoyed Time Traveller's wife. As you say, not perfect, but a a page turner of a read! My mind is completely drawing a blank on other time jumping books and I know I have read some too!

claire said...

I felt the same way! I totally enjoyed the ride, even if I couldn't ever add this to my favourites list. My friend also pushed it on me ha ha, which I'm glad for, because it was really nice and, like you say, charming. I thought there were a few snags in the writing and the characterization, too, which were the things that made my mind go placing teeny demerits. But overall it was a hoot! (Besides The Eagles, I felt her listening to Fleetwood Mac jarred as well. But then I read this so long ago.)

claire said...

I'm not sure but if I remember right, Garcia Marquez's books are non linear, like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. Also Rushdie's MIdnight's Children and The Moor's Last Sigh. Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. Titles escape me, too, I don't know.