Sunday, April 11, 2010

a story about time, and. unapologetically, a story about love.

March was filled with two weekends of packing and moving, a favorite friend in town, the annual trek to Washington, DC with students and no internet at home for the past week. But. I am now moved in and attempting to have a normal-looking life again.

That being said, I've finished some books since I last typed on here: Lost Illusions by Balzac, Special by Bella Bathurst, Until You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  I have dreams to backtrack and write about them all in the coming weeks since I've skipped out on my Saturday morning ritual for almost two months.  Hate that. We shall see. I most recently finished The Time Traveler's Wife, so I will start there.

I started out reading this because I wanted a quick, engaging read for spring break.  Many evenings were spent reading well into the morning. Henry is a time traveler who is not able to control when or where he goes.  In his twenties, after he meets Clare, his wife, he begins to travel back to her childhood.  Therefore, Clare always has memories of Henry, but Henry does not have memories of her until after they have met in real time, but is able to go back to other times of their lives with the perspective from the future (and yes, despite my Lost-watching, time travel is a difficult concept to wrap my mind around.)  Time and love are the two major themes I considered while reading.

Time is a funny thing that I can't stop thinking about lately, especially the relationship between time and self. When Henry visits from the future, young Clare isn't the same as the Clare in his present. When he meets 18-year-old Clare, he misses the depth that is the 33-year-old Clare. It is interesting to think about how time changes us and how it happens without us necessarily realizing it until we step out of it.  The core of me is the same, but I have changed so much in the nearly seven years I've lived in New York.  Though I can't plot out the exact moments that changed me, it is interesting to track our own stories of becoming...and to realize that I don't want to go back to my 23 year old self, as uneasy as I am to turn 30 this year.

I find myself always skeptical and sometimes cynical of saccharin literary love stories.  Because of the popularity of this book, I carried this attitude into my reading, but as it turns out, Henry and Clare's love story was beautiful in its complexity and imperfections and passion.

Time travel worked as a metaphor: in the present time Clare and Henry face incredible loss and it wears on their marriage.  Henry though, is able to revisit the times in their relationship when poetry was personified and was able to remember why love is worth fighting for.  I think that this concept is often lost on many of my own generation: things get difficult and the overriding belief is that it's easier to quit than to work through it--be it a relationship, a job, a dream. Remembering the good and true can completely change one's perspective.

What impressed me the most--or maybe what I connected to the most--about Niffenegger's book was her incorporation of poetry into the most emotionally charged moments.  I am a firm believer that poetry can encapsulate any moment better than prose or conversation or dialogue.  I am most often drawn to modern  and post modern poetry, but I was completely wrapped up in the verses from Homer's "The Odyssey" that Niffeneger leaves the reader with:

Now from his breast into his eyes the ache
of longing mounted, and he wept at last,
his dear wife, clear and faithful in his arms,
longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer
spent in rough water where his ship went down
under Poseidon's blows, gale winds and tons of sea. 
Few men can keep alive through a big surf
to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches
in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind:
and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband,
her white arms round him pressed as though forever.
(translated by Robert Fitzgerald)

I could write about this excerpt from the Odyssey and draw comparison's about travel, difficult journey's and hardship, but I will spare you (unless you want to come over to the new apartment for a book talk, please do). But in a rare moment in which I will not apologize for waxing romantic, or in the back of my mind judge myself for being saccharin (because its not a good idea to mock the Beautiful) I will say this:  the idea of having a person as a metaphor for home, the idea that through all of the hardships there is someone who will fight for you and wait for you, someone who cares about where you are and who you are and whose eyes will light up the minute that they see you, that is a beautiful thing.


Bridget said...

the lens in which you see the world helps to remind me to not only see, but embrace and believe in all things Beautiful. (caps, a must). thank you for sharing your view. and yes, I very much would like to come over for a book club meeting in your new apartment. what time? I will bring wine.

meaghan said...

I love this.