The truth is, I haven’t even finished The Folded Clock: A Diary yet. I believe I’m on the last pages and I’m heel skidding on the finale. On Tuesday I read The New Yorker instead. Partly it was a stall; Partly it was because I like to read The New Yorker on Mondays, but Monday was a holiday, so Tuesday became Hyper-Monday. Have I ever mentioned how I do this New Yorker thing? (I’m not sure why I think it should be so fascinating to everyone who lives outside of my brain.) I start reading every article until I hit a word that bores me, then I ditch out of the passenger side of the vehicle, protect my head and roll into moving traffic. I end up reading both more and less than I’d guess I would.
Sometimes I don’t even finish a headline.
On Wednesday I watched “The Good Wife” instead. It’s my slow-go marathon show right now and I have a lot of thoughts about it, but no one else in the universe seems to be on, like Season, 3, Episode 15. Whenever I mention the show, whomever I’m talking to says “Oh! I love Will!” and I kind of get it, kind of don’t. He seems immature to me. Pouty. The kind of guy who’s hosted a lot of ladies for Eggs Benedict in bed, but has never had an honest emotion drip out of any facial holes. I imagine he has bad sportsmanship and poor impulse control. But I loved him in “Dead Poet’s Society,” so shrug. I actually love Kalinda and her PI super powers and I love Alicia and how, three seasons in, she is still completely unknowable. Incidentally, I can work myself up into a frothy rage when I hear in my head my mom saying “I wouldn’t really call her a ‘Good wife …’” which she actually did say one time.
I will probably finish reading Heidi Julavits’ diary tonight. It’s time. But I’m going to miss this thing.
I’ve gone through a lot of phases with this book. First of all, full disclosure. About six months ago I was talking to an author-author, the kind with a trilogy backed by a major publisher, and he asked what I’ve been writing. This was before my recent Come-To-Jesus, the good long look in the mirror about how maybe I’m not a novelist. Maybe I’m a newspaper reporter at a mid-sized daily who occasionally writes something that attracts some retweets. (Like, two.) Maybe I’m a retired blogger and a momstagrammer. Maybe I have no business dabbling in the fictional side of things. Maybe I’m all facts all the time.
And, actually, maybe I’m an ultramarathon runner.
Anyway, this was before all of that, so I had an answer for him. In fact, I had two: 1. A coming of age story in which something terrible happens in the background and 2. A project in which I kept a diary and record in it one thing that happens each day. It had to be completely present tense, no “And this all reminds me of the time I …” I called this one my “Art” project. It would take at least a year and when the year was done I would go back and see what to make of it. Look for patterns and themes and use it as an abstract measuring stick. He said it sounded interesting, probably more because he supports other artists than because it was actually … interesting.
So, even though I don’t pretend I’m writing books right now, when I read what The Folded Clock was about I stomped my feet like someone who didn’t want the piece of cake until I heard that someone else ate it. Julavits, who hadn’t kept a diary since she was a child, returned to the art of it and then collected these sort of mini essays and recollections in this book. At first I was a little huffy, like, THIS ISN’T AT ALL LIKE A DIARY, IT’S LIKE MINI ESSAYS and then I had to do that thing where you remind yourself to read the book you’re reading and not the book you think this book should be and BAM.
I went bonkers.
It’s not a diary, really, but it kind of is. There aren’t juicy reveals, though she does seem to loosen up and play footsie with gossip-y entries occasionally. She provides a portrait of a bleak relationship moment, but seems to have come at it from a place where she is out of the moment and seeing it more rationally than emotionally. She talks about her ticks, the way she collects things and how her therapists sometimes stop receiving her. And as she goes along, little truths are revealed and a more solid portrait of the artist as a human comes into focus.
By then, reading this had come to feel like a getting-to-know-you convo with a new friend. Listening, at lights out, to someone in the next bunk tell you her life story. Not the bullet points, but the stuff in between that sometimes leads up to the bullet points. I sometimes make this comparison, and it’s exhausting, but it was like confessional blogging at its most beautiful period — right before everyone got fired and/or gave everyone pseudonyms.
So I’m tempted to do something I never do (with few exceptions): I’m tempted to reread this sometime. Julavits is a nice voice to have in your head.
Update: It’s about a week and a half later and I still haven’t finished The Folded Clock. Now it’s just the principle. I don’t want to be done with it.