31 March 2015

Heidi Julavits' Book of Days

I thought I would enjoy this book, and I was delighted to be right.

Julavits decided to try keeping a diary again after a hiatus of many years, during which she credited her childhood diary as critical in forming her writing. When Julavits (the co-editor of The Believer) starts again, she does so self-consciously, stylishly, always with a subtext. Entries skip around throughout two years, during which Julavits and her family spend the summer in Maine (where she grew up), the winter in New York and brief spells in Europe for fellowships. At no time is the author unaware that what she is writing will be shared; in a way, she revels in it.

The experience of reading this book is like reading a blog, the juicy kind unafraid to share secrets or confess. (The best kind; most blogs, this one included, are too cautious these days.) Like reading an incautious blog the sense of identification with the author is probably out of proportion, but at the risk of danger, I did "feel like I knew" Julavits over the course of this book. Of course I knew she was playing with that form and its strategic self-revelations, just like in every blog (shock, shock, horror, horror). Yet the game was enjoyable.

One advantage to the diaristic memoir as a form is that it is allowed to skirt a very common criticism of memoirs these days -- that is, that they aren't eventful enough or describing important moments in life. That "nothing happens" in them. THE FOLDED CLOCK does not catch Julavits at a highly eventful time in her life, but then again, who knows what times in her life will turn out to be truly eventful at the outset? In a way, this form takes the pressure off.

Pop culture sidebar: In THE FOLDED CLOCK Julavits reveals herself to be a substantial "Bachelor"/"Bachelorette" fan (also a fan of antique shopping, swimming and gossip more generally). Since this upcoming season of "The Bachelorette" will be the first to co-star two women, clearly Julavits and Jennifer Weiner will have to co-live-tweet the season -- perhaps with commentary about how they are both New England summer-ers, maybe some mutual hand-wringing about the overburdened expectations placed on female protagonists these days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting! Thanks for letting us know. I love memoirs. ~Jen