Friday, February 2, 2007

Time Travel

Right now I'm reading The Time Traveler's Wife, which I'm enjoying, despite my inability, at times, to understand the complete mechanics of the central character's time travel.

This is Audrey Niffenegger's first novel and it's pretty good. I'm reading it with two eyes--first, I want to enjoy the story, the strange and interesting twist on the old formula, the romance. Second, and this is probably a bigger eye than the other one (causing me an astigmatism, but what the hell), I want to figure out the secret, the impulse, the drive behind the first novel.

How does one do it? What's the seed I need to eat in order to stay behind in the land of novel long enough to churn one out? What's the drink I need to quaff in order to chase down the seed, so that I not only create a novel but get the gumption to find an agent, write and send out short stories for publication so that, perhaps, I can find an agent, someone who will believe in me, in my "product," or my potential products, who will water me so that I grow into a novelist and then market me in the Home Depot of first novels?

Shit, my metaphors are colliding as fast and furious as my ego with my critic.

Back to Niffenegger's work: perhaps the most clever bit of her concept is the idea that this man, when he's stressed, travels back and forth along his own time continuum. He meets his wife to be when she's six and he's 36, though in real time they are only 8 years apart. He's experienced marriage with her for years, then, before he comes back to find her before the story begins. When she finally meets up with him in "real time," when she's 20 and he's 28, a librarian at the Newberry, he doesn't know who she is, even though they have a history together--her entire cognizant childhood--already.

Using time travel as a metaphor for memory and story is quite interesting, though it can also be confrustrating (confusing and frustrating). My betamax brain can't always entirely grasp the physics of his time travel and thus the rules of the novel's universe. But, unlike Pychon's vast and enervating novelverse, I can skip over the blips in the radar and keep going, reading at least for the "good bits"--the trouble in the marriage, of course.

Because who can deal with a spouse who can't live in the present?


Anonymous said...

Man, I loved that novel. It's been awhile since I read it, but I remember being so moved by it--by the love they had for each other and the sacrifices they had to make.

I read somewhere that Brad Pitt optioned the movie rights. Brad Pitt as a time-traveling librarian--now that I'd like to see!

Kristen said...

Well said.