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Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller's Wife

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Mar. 30th, 2009 | 08:35 pm

Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller's Wife

What a well-constructed, well-executed, vapid, and self-congratulatory book this is! Street directions lifted from Google Maps stand in for the evocation of place, compulsive lists - authors, bands, sushi - stand in for characterization. American Psycho does this, but it is a sign of Patrick Bateman's sickness. Here is one particular offence:
"I peruse Henry's bookshelves. Here is the Henry I know. Donne's Elegies and Songs and Sonnets. Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. Immanuel Kant. Barthes, Foucault, Derrida. Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience. Winnie the Pooh. The Annotated Alice. Heidegger. Rilke. Tristram Shandy. Wisconsin Death Trip. Aristotle. Bishop Berkeley. Andrew Marvell. Hypothermia, Frostbite, and Other Cold Injuries."

But tell me - are the spines bent? Unbent? Are they all in the same edition? Are they shelved with care, alphabetically, by height, by width, by weight? Who is this Henry that you know? Who cares. The branding is all that matters.

The absolute nadir of this book is when time-travelling thirty-something hipster Henry sees a couple of teenage baby-punks at a family gathering. Over he bounds, and dictates to them a list of necessary bands. Inexplicably, they do not say, "Fuck off grandpa." Instead, they are awed and dutifully scribble down the canon. Truly, as they used to say in Smash Hits, it is like punk never happened.

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Comments {14}

gareth_rees

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from: gareth_rees
date: Mar. 30th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
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Niffenegger sets up a science-fictional gimmick and then totally fails to show any interest in it other than as a driver for the oh! so predestined! love story between the two principals. I spent the whole book thinking, why didn't they do anything useful with the time travel? even simple things like being on hand to help Henry out when he turns up? or stashing warm clothes? Might have been more useful than a book on hypothermia and frostbite. Maybe the point is that the time loops reduced the characters into automata but that's just one more reason not to care about them.

Abigail Nussbaum's review is spot-on.

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Altariel

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from: altariel
date: Mar. 31st, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)
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I'd have been happy with the gimmick if the characters had been remotely engaging - that would have delivered poignancy. Steven Moffat does infinitely more with the whole idea.

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