20 September 2010
Day 177: The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. ISBN: 9781598872712 (audiobook).
I don't think I could stand having a lover that time traveled. I think if I knew when I started dating a person that they had this problem, I would have to be pretty sure the relationship was going to last. Imagine being in love with someone who popped in and out of your life, and you never knew when they were going to show up, or for how long, or which version of them it would be.
One day you could be with your 20-year-old lover, and the next day you could be with him at 40 after you've just had a messy divorce and he hates your guts. Or you could be with both at the same time. Wouldn't that be fun.
I think the nice thing about linear time (at least as far as we can perceive) is that we only have to go through stuff like that once. We get to be and deal with each other as 20-year-olds for only a year. Imagine traveling back in time and watching your 20-year-old self doing stupid shit you know you're going to regret, and not being able to do anything about it because it's already happened, and therefore you cannot change it. Or better yet, having your 20-year-old self travel forward in time and seeing how pathetic you become and dishing out the criticism, etc. We're already self-critical of ourselves in the present; now imagine actually having that manifest in physical form. You know you would kick your own ass, and not regret doing it either.
Now imagine having a lover, a person you became extremely vulnerable to and told all your secrets to and likely had many, many embarassing moments with (because sex is dumb like that). Now imagine that lover can pop in and out of your life as a 20-year-old. Sure, it might be fun when you're 36 and successful and still dating the 38-year-old version of your lover to take the 20-year-old version to bed, because damn that would be hot. It's not so hot when you're 70 and starting to go senile and occasionally can't make it to the bathroom on time and your lover has been dead for 30 years and now he's popped back in and he is almost godlike in his youthful beauty and he is looking at you like, "Thank god I'll be dead and don't have to wake up to that in the morning."
As romantic as Niffenegger made it all sound, I somehow doubt it would all work together so perfectly, and there would be far more heartache involved than just time traveling back to your mother's fatal car accident or the night your ex-girlfriend committed suicide. I think it would be terribly messy and you probably wouldn't live to the ripe old middle age that Henry managed to get to. Give me regular linear time travel any day. I'd rather my heartbreak only show up in the here and now and not come unbidden into my future.
I don't absolutely hate the book like the writer of this review, but I do think she points out all the major flaws (which I mostly agree with).