Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Folded Clock - Heidi Julavits

I read about this book on someone else's blog, and then in a million other places.  I had to wait in the on-hold line at my library for a long time.  But after I started reading it, I wondered why it was so popular.

It's a book of essays about the author's life, in the form of a non-linear diary.  The author, Heidi Julavits, grew up in Maine and now lives in New York City in the winter and in Maine in the summer.  She and her husband are both writers and teachers, and they have two children.

I almost stopped reading after a couple dozen pages.  I was thinking that there wasn't anything very interesting about the book and that I, or many other people, could have written something comparable.  But I kept reading, the way I sometimes can't stop watching TV or listening to an overheard conversation.

I don't mean to pan the book.  I just don't see anything special about it.  I think Juvalits shares a little too much  -  the abortion she had when she was a young woman, sex acts she performed discretely in public, how she admits to using men for most of her life, the affair she had with her second husband while they were both married  -  I don't think these things added to the book.  I've had some wild times in my life, and you may have, too, but I don't share them with anyone except my closest friends.  And, usually, not even them.  You either had to be there or you won't know about them.

There were parts that made me smile because they were familiar.  Like how, as a child, she predicted the day's luck by whether or not she could take the foil top off her morning yogurt container without tearing it.  I do things like that even now.  Or how, when she moves from her winter house to her summer house, or vice versa, it takes her forever to remember which knob turns on which burner on the different stoves.  I've lived in our current house for almost ten years, but I still occasionally open the wrong drawer looking for tea towels.

She writes about how hard it is to make friends as you get older.  I agree completely.  (See above;  if you weren't part of my life as it was forming me, I'm not going to give you a crash course in what has made me me.)

My last critique is that some her sentences were constructed in a way that, had I not known better, would have made me wonder if English wasn't her first language.  I won't provide any examples because I'm always second guessing myself about things like this.  I started out in life as a writer, I worked as a writer for a while, but when I question usage or grammar, I think maybe things have changed or I've misremembered the rules.  If I've made errors in this blog post, feel free to let me know.  Glass houses, stones, etc.

I finished the book and I enjoyed it.  I just don't know what all the fuss was about.


  1. I really liked it. I liked how it played with time and the order of events and how it played with the diary format and our expectations of what that means.

    1. This one just didn't get it for me. I could identify with some of what she wrote, but she annoyed me for some reason and I had a hard time getting past that. I had a similar problem with Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Maybe I'm just jealous that these women wrote about their lives, not especially extraordinary lives, and I think 'I could have written that and mine would have been more interesting.' I just didn't click with either of them.