Friday, December 23, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife

James and I watched the movie version of the Time Traveler's Wife earlier this month. It is remarkable that I decided to read this book at all, considering how much I disliked the film. the novel, however, is quite good. In fact, I could hardly put it down. Henry DeTramble is a time traveler, and a librarian. He cannot control his time travel, where he goes, when he goes or where or when he arrives. What is always true for him though, is that when he travels he arrives at his destination without his clothes, or anything else that is not part of his person. Henry's wife, Clare, has known Henry since she was a little girl, although he always appeared to her as a grown man. Much of the story is about their relationship before they meet in "real time". Twenty-eight year old Henry has actually never met Clare, when she recognizes him at the Newberry Library in Chicago where he works. While other women might have to go on faith believing that the alcoholic, party animal, womanizer will be able to settle down to married life, Clare knows it will happen all along, and pays no heed to her friends' warnings.

I did not bother to count how many times libraries were mentioned, but I did mark a few passages that were especially intriguing to me. There were a few places where the librarian stereotype was made clear. One of Henry's acquaintances asks him to play her boyfriend for her family at Chirstmas dinner. She implores him "You're a presentable young person of the male gender. Hell, you're a librarian (emphasis in original). Henry even recognizes the stereotype himself when he visits his library school friend, Ben, of whom Henry says "More than anyone else I know, Ben looks like a librarian". Ironic, of course, is that Ben never finished his MLS, and instead provides back-alley meds to those in need. However much Ben must look like a librarian, Henry apparently doesn't, or at least so says Clare's friend Helen who remarks "we hear that you are a librarian. But you don't look like a librarian." To which Henry retorts "[a]ctually I am a Calvin Klein underwear model. The librarian thing is just a front". 

The library is a place where much time travel takes place, both to-ing and fro-ing.  And it is in the library of the Field Museum that five-year old Henry is mentored in time-travel survival by his 24-year old self. It is in Henry's own workplace that his boss and co-workers finally learn why Henry appears to have such a penchant for "airing out his johnson" when two of his selfs (one buck naked) show up at the same time. He explains to his colleagues about "the lying, and the stealing, and the fear...and trying to have a normal life 'and part of having a normal life is having a normal job'". To which one of his co-workers responds "I wouldn't really call this a normal job." Touché.

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