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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}

The Hyacinth Girl

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from: fallingtowers
date: Mar. 31st, 2009 09:55 am (UTC)
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Oh God, I hated this novel so fucking much that I'm always glad to find someone else who dislikes it (almost?) as much as I do. "Vapid and self-congratulatory" is the most succinct characterization I have come across so far.

American Psycho does this, but it is a sign of Patrick Bateman's sickness.

YES. THIS. Not that I liked American Psycho either (although the movie was great), but at least I wasn't meant to think that Bateman was the best thing ever since the invention of sliced bread.

Niffenegger's pseudo-intellekshual name-dropping, however, is supposed to make her characters appear sophisticated and profound while it has really got all the depth of a glossy IKEA catalogue. Not that I dislike IKEA catalogues: They feature nifty and practical stuff called Billy and Sven and Björn; they are honest about trying to sell me something -- a product, a brand, and the accompanying lifestyle; and they never pretend to be about Love and Life and Art.

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Altariel

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from: altariel
date: Mar. 31st, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
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Oh, it was ghastly. Not construction-wise (very well done) and not in terms of narrative drive (it was very readable). But those awful people! An IKEA catalogue would be much better company.

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