I have just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The copy that I have is miserably worn out: whole sections have become detached from the spine, the cover is ragged and torn, pages are dog-eared and bent and throughout the paper has become soft. I don’t know how many times I have read this book but for whatever reason I keep coming back to it. The story never fails to draw me in and as soon as I begin to read it I become eager to read every page and to reacquainted myself with the lives of Henry and Clare.
I purchased my copy of this book years ago. I was traveling somewhere and I saw it in an airport bookstore. I had my journal with me, of course, but at that moment I didn’t want to write, or get mired down in the concerns of my own life. I wanted to escape. I wanted a good story. Intrigued by the title and the cover art I picked the book up and skimmed the back cover. Time travel? Seriously? While the story does revolve around this most fantastical phenomena it is really the characters that make the book so engaging. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a love story. And for me, it is an unforgettable one.
Henry, a librarian by day and unwilling time traveler (due to a genetic disorder) meets Clare at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Henry is 28 and Clare is 20. What he doesn’t realize is that he is standing in front of the woman who will be his wife. Clare has known Henry her whole life, she met him for the first time when she was 6 years old (and Henry was 36). As their lives intertwine the future Henry begins to time travel into his wife’s childhood. And that is how the story begins. Niffenegger somehow manages to weave this complicated time line into a compelling story that holds my attention from beginning to end.
Niffenegger possesses a soulful artistry in her writing. It varies from lush and elegant to crass, even offensive, then off again becoming austere and refined. The reason I like it so much is that it feels real for these characters. And it feels true to life. No one is ever elegant all the time. Sex, drugs, punk music, opera and season theater tickets, gallery openings, friends, pregnancy and all the stuff that make up a life, when you read this book you go through so much with these two. Another reason I enjoy the book so much is what the characters are — Clare is an artist and Henry is a man who loves poetry and literature. Niffenegger uses this to add depth to her own words by spicing it with quotes and ideas from a broad spectrum of sources. Rilke (my favorite poet) makes an appearance. Homer. A.S. Byatt. And Andrew Marvell (Henry’s favorite). Throughout the book Henry makes use of a line from Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress. He turns it into a toast at Christmas, a pledge to his wife and again the words come back at the end. “Had we but world enough, and time…”
I think I remember reading this poem in high school, but it didn’t really stick with me. Now I associate the quote with this book and I love it. When there are words, quotes, poems that I can’t get out of my mind I often try to combine them with photos. That’s the story behind the image that started this blog: it’s my attempt to illustrate the words that I want to hold onto. For this photo I used two images — the image of the earth at night I found on Google, the other is a selection of a clock I photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I want to make a print of this and hang in on my wall, but I am trying to be responsible, so for now I will have to be content with posting it on my blog and using it for the background of my computer. Responsibility sucks. Or as my friend Miss Brett likes to say “Adulthood is over-rated.”