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Reviews for The Folded Clock: A Diary:

4

Mar 27, 2015

I have been seeing a lot of chatter about this book in various book reviews (see below for a couple) and as a constant journaler myself, I'm always on the look-out for diaries or journals by interesting people who share my passion. I have not read anything by Heidi Julavits, so went in knowing absolutely nothing about her.

At first, I'll admit, I thought she was a bit unstable. Some of her admissions irked me and I found myself totally being a dick and judging her. But then as I read I actually I have been seeing a lot of chatter about this book in various book reviews (see below for a couple) and as a constant journaler myself, I'm always on the look-out for diaries or journals by interesting people who share my passion. I have not read anything by Heidi Julavits, so went in knowing absolutely nothing about her.

At first, I'll admit, I thought she was a bit unstable. Some of her admissions irked me and I found myself totally being a dick and judging her. But then as I read I actually found myself giggling at some of her entries. As I read I realized that she is an honest person (more on the honesty front in a minute, and be forewarned it may seem contradictory when I go into it again) with honest feelings, and that's what diaries are all about, right? If you can't admit the truth to yourself, there's no real hope for you. Julavits is an author, but she's a regular person, just like every author. She has some down periods, she sometimes thinks her kids are assholes, she is not glamorous, and that's what I appreciate. I don't want a glammed up version of someone's life because I wouldn't necessarily believe that anyway. No one is perfect all the time, and someone who writes a diary or a journal as if they are perfect is a lazy liar and a totally inauthentic person. I found some of her entries similar to things I might to my best friend, someone else who doesn't judge me (at least, not openly) and knows that while I might be threatening to cut someone because I'm frustrated with them, I am not seriously going to do it. That's how I felt reading Julavits.

Now, about that honesty. What's interesting about this book is (from what I can understand, anyway) that she wrote this with the intention of publishing it. This leads me to question just how honest all of it is. Maybe it is more polished than I originally thought. But does that make it bad? No, not necessarily. It still shows an interesting writer with a talent. She still wrote things that not many people would admit to themselves or others, and there's a sort of artistic bravery in that, without waxing too poetic about it.

Overall, I enjoyed this. Each entry starts with "Today I..." and she undresses her day in front of us. The entries are short which made reading on the bus especially enjoyable, and her wry sense of humor had me giggling out loud which I rarely do. At first, not knowing anything about her, the way she self-deprecatingly wrote about herself, I had her pegged as a much older woman, somewhat matronly and dowdy. And then I looked her up and realized I was way off-base, but that amused me in and of itself because I too tend to describe myself as some older woman, too worn out by life and experience to come across as fresh and green like a puppy any more.

Overall, a good read. I fully intend to read some of her fiction now as well to see if that same sort of humor comes across in all of her writing. I also have to give a shout-out to whoever created the cover because that is just lovely.

The New York Times, Sunday Book Review

Huff Po ...more
3

Apr 27, 2015

I'm pretty sure that when I finally get around to reading Heidi Julavits' fiction, I'm going to enjoy it. As evidenced by her "diary" The Folded Clock she's plenty intelligent, has a keen, self-deprecatory sense of humor, and a vivid imagination. There was something about her quirky, neurotic musings with this that just left me scratching my head. I don't know if it was the fault of the book or just me, but I didn't quite love this as I'd hoped.

The diary format you'd think would work well with I'm pretty sure that when I finally get around to reading Heidi Julavits' fiction, I'm going to enjoy it. As evidenced by her "diary" The Folded Clock she's plenty intelligent, has a keen, self-deprecatory sense of humor, and a vivid imagination. There was something about her quirky, neurotic musings with this that just left me scratching my head. I don't know if it was the fault of the book or just me, but I didn't quite love this as I'd hoped.

The diary format you'd think would work well with someone whose life is as full as Ms. Julavits'. This is not exactly a conventional diary though, and what seems at first a fresh idea starts getting stale at about the tenth entry. The entries (there are 92 of them) are randomly inserted (not in any chronological order, from what I can ascertain) and all start Today I... (like "Today I went shopping online for skirt suits...") but then meandering off into anecdote-land, often nothing to do with the the thing she did that day. You can tell she's had a rich, full life, but you just get these snippets that often times just aren't very interesting (or as funny as she thinks they are)
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Her favorite topics of discussion: Maine (where she summers with her writer/husband and kids when not living in NYC and teaching at Columbia U.), shark attacks, artist colonies she's frequented across the globe, watching The Bachelor with het husband, antiques shops, Googling stuff, her penchant for losing stuff, dinner parties with her writer/artist friends (dishing gossip on which of their neighbors is sleeping with whom.) If it wasn't for Ms. Julavits' unconventional delivery and occasional humor this would've been a snooze-fest. You'd think that with a "diary" format you'd get some of her innermost. thoughts, and plenty of candor. Well, kinda yes, but mostly no. Most every entry is barely glossed over, usually with the aim to tell another anecdote (with varying degrees of humor), but candor? Well...I guess so.

The conversations she has with herself are charmingly neurotic, and whet my appetite for what kind of fiction she might concoct, but this diary is ultimately more dizzying than enlightening. ...more
4

Jan 05, 2016

Today when reading this book, I was reminded of a very difficult and troubled time in my younger days. One notable day during this time, I observed to my then-boyfriend the opinion that I'd identified a particular song that perfectly reflected my current interior state, if that interior state were to have sonic attributes.

I passed my headphones to the boyfriend and watched his face undergo one of the more rapid transformations I've had cause to witness. To the present day, this remains the only Today when reading this book, I was reminded of a very difficult and troubled time in my younger days. One notable day during this time, I observed to my then-boyfriend the opinion that I'd identified a particular song that perfectly reflected my current interior state, if that interior state were to have sonic attributes.

I passed my headphones to the boyfriend and watched his face undergo one of the more rapid transformations I've had cause to witness. To the present day, this remains the only time I've heard someone truly sputter with indignation. And this guy was no common sputterer. Rather, he was an American Literature doctoral student self-endowed with an endless supply of eloquent phrases to expound upon all things, and from whom not even the most slender and crumbling literary margin was safe from wryly flowing penned commentary.

But this time and surely this time alone, he indeed sputtered, and indignantly so. The sentiment that eventually emerged from all the sputtering was that we should most judiciously consider a breakup, as my chosen song clearly represented a horrible, terrifying interior state that was moreover insulting to him, as his rightfully intended paramour would have no sound basis for owning, much less publicly advertising, such a fucked up and furthermore aesthetically repugnant interior state.

Now, I can admit today from my place of maturity and mental and relational wellness that yes: the song is maybe possessed of a complexity that is alienatingly discordant at best and, at worst, somewhat alarming from a mental health/hygiene and psychological first aid perspective. While the song might be said to possess an eerie beauty, a listener such as the boyfriend may very well have been justified in assuming that nothing of any substantial and enduring goodness could been fostered by the repeated listens and intense, willful self-identification with which I bestowed the song.

And yet, what incredible power that song wielded - to compel such extreme and mutually repellent reactions in two individuals whom, up to that point, had fancied themselves likeminded and mutually positively disposed! This mere artistic creation catalyzed a formidable argument that formed the fundamental tectonic crack that rather quickly blossomed into the abysmal San Andreas Fault of our doomed Union**. And how? - by succeeding in constructing for each of us a Sense of the other's Personhood so Real, so More Us Than Even Us, that it overrode or perhaps even exorcised our existing senses of the other person that had been based on the apparently shoddy evidence of our real world, workaday interactions.

And that is the kind of similarly powerful Performance of Self that Julavits demonstrates in this book, although to a far more benign end. She succeeds in being More Her Than She Even Is, a masterful achievement that is a thrill to witness. Even though this "diary" is actually a mischievous, experimental literary project, and although its version of "Heidi Julavits" is fundamentally a fictional character, the author's creative skill is such that we are able to willfully suspend both knowledge and belief and indulge in wholesale acceptance that this is the actual Heidi's actual diary that we might have found tumbling from some suitcases in her Maine attic along with other sacred objects such as her tap handle and perhaps a few of her many misplaced wallets. As with my horrifically self-referential song, it takes tremendous talent to artistically render "actual reality" in such an extravagantly, hyperbolically transcendent manner that it serves the cause of revealing an Even More Actual Reality in which oneself and others can truly be known and understood in an illuminating, meaningful, useful way.


**This was all for the best, and after going our separate ways, everything turned out way better for both of us, even way better than ever seemed remotely likely or deserved, so there's no need to feel bad about this anecdote or for anyone.
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3

Feb 22, 2015

I'm honestly at about 3.5 stars for this one. Reading this book every night was like having coffee with your smartest girlfriend. I loved that about it. Its weaknesses are mostly inherent to the diary format. Writing a daily essay that connects to something you did that day is somewhat limiting, though Julavits certainly makes the most of it. I'm sure it's more interesting than a memoir approach to documenting a year in her life.

On the other hand, with so many small looks into one moment or I'm honestly at about 3.5 stars for this one. Reading this book every night was like having coffee with your smartest girlfriend. I loved that about it. Its weaknesses are mostly inherent to the diary format. Writing a daily essay that connects to something you did that day is somewhat limiting, though Julavits certainly makes the most of it. I'm sure it's more interesting than a memoir approach to documenting a year in her life.

On the other hand, with so many small looks into one moment or conversation or experience in a day, the larger strokes of life get left behind a bit. And the out-of-order presentation, with Julavits being in New York in winter, then Maine in Summer, then Italy in Fall, is interesting but I'm not sure it works better than it would have chronologically. It never gets past the gimmick phase into something more notable.

Still. I like Julavits, and as a blogger I see great value in taking time to write about something that happens in your life and framing it in a readable way. Many of her stories are laugh-out-loud funny, many are deeply resonant, many stop just short and leave you wanting more. She's a great writer, she's rarely boring, and she's rarely expected. Some of the highest compliments I can give. ...more
2

Jul 19, 2015

Clever. charming, off-beat, both the book and the narrator. Everytime I sat down with this book, I completely enjoyed myself. Until one day I just couldn't stand it! I realized it was sort of like reading an extended Facebook update, one long humble-brag. "I have long blonde hair and am considered pretty, but gee really so-and-so is so much prettier." "I spend my summers in Maine and travel for extended periods of time to Italy, but I'm just so kooky and neurotic!" I wanted to drown her in a Clever. charming, off-beat, both the book and the narrator. Everytime I sat down with this book, I completely enjoyed myself. Until one day I just couldn't stand it! I realized it was sort of like reading an extended Facebook update, one long humble-brag. "I have long blonde hair and am considered pretty, but gee really so-and-so is so much prettier." "I spend my summers in Maine and travel for extended periods of time to Italy, but I'm just so kooky and neurotic!" I wanted to drown her in a bathtub, after having read the first half of the book enchanted with her. Cloying. I happen to be reading "Learning to Walk in the Dark" at the same time, a deep book about spiritual matters and ecology, and I just couldn't bring myself to finish this frivolous book. Fantastic writer, funny, but ultimately struck me as shallow. Might pick it up again and change my mind some day.

So to update, I did finish it, right after writing this. And once I picked it back up, I again immediately enjoyed it ... she is someone we'd all love to have coffee with. I laughed out loud numerous times. I wanted to go to her house in Maine with her. But after awhile it got cloying again, and when I finished it, I wondered what the point was really. But I think perhaps I am missing something. There's a section in the book where she wonders if it is her deficit when she hates books everyone else likes ... maybe we would make wonderful best friends. But I don't think I get her books.

Here's the thing - and the reason I did finish it ... I thought because the entries were all jumbled in respect to chronology that the book was going to have something to say about time, the passing of time, memory, the formation of memory ... something like this. I didn't see why the entries were placed in the order they were, but I was trusting it would begin to make sense. It never really seemed to go beyond a random jumbling though. At the very end, she began bending time and storytelling in a way I had been expecting and I got interested, but for one thing, it was too late, and anyway, although the writing got especially poignant and beautiful, there still didn't seem to be anything being really SAID about time or memory. I might have just missed something really important - maybe this was indeed the deep philosophical book I was waiting for, but I was too dumb to notice. I better go read everyone else's 5 star reviews and see what I missed. ...more
4

Apr 23, 2017

The title comes from Julavits daughters mishearing of folded cloth but is apt in that it suggests time stretching and collapsing back on itself. Indeed, one reason for starting the journal was that she felt time had started to pass differently from how it did in her childhood. Whereas she once thought in terms of days, she realized in her forties that she now worked in weeks and months. She was also inspired by digging out her adolescent diary though it was not nearly as profound or revelatory The title comes from Julavits’ daughter’s mishearing of “folded cloth” but is apt in that it suggests time stretching and collapsing back on itself. Indeed, one reason for starting the journal was that she felt time had started to pass differently from how it did in her childhood. Whereas she once thought in terms of days, she realized in her forties that she now worked in weeks and months. She was also inspired by digging out her adolescent diary – though it was not nearly as profound or revelatory about her future writing career as she might have hoped.

The Folded Clock is a diary of two fairly average years in her life, but its dated entries (month and day only) are not in order; they’ve been rearranged into what at times feels like an arbitrary sequence. Yet this is in keeping with the overall theme of time’s fluidity. Every single entry begins with “Today,” reflecting a determination to live in the present. But of course, that format still offers a broad scope for memory, with certain activities and objects provoking flashbacks. For instance, she finds her ten-year-old marriage vows in the pocket of an old coat, and rereads a biography of Edie Sedgwick (from Andy Warhol’s circle, she died of a drug overdose at 28), as she periodically does to gauge how her response changes as she ages.

Julavits also situates her writing in the context of other famous diarists, such as the Goncourt brothers and Henry David Thoreau. As the latter did in Walden, she’s seeking to live deliberately, though within her regular life and without venturing into nature all that much; “I am an outdoorsman of the indoors,” she quips.

There’s a huge variety of topics here. She writes about being afraid of sharks, stealing names to use for characters in her novels, entering her small Maine town’s Fourth of July parade float competition, visiting E.B. White’s grave, mourning a tree half-lost to a hurricane, her insistence on dwelling in west-facing rooms, and regretting never telling her doctor how much she appreciated him before he died in a cycling accident. Travel features heavily, too, what with accompanying her husband to a fellowship in Germany and spending time at an art colony in Italy. Often it’s the tiny encounters and incidents that remain in her mind, though, like accidentally buying bitter apricot kernels instead of almonds at a German market and worrying that her husband might have given himself cyanide poisoning by eating 14 at once.

Some of these pieces would function well as stand-alone essays, like the one about her obsession with The Bachelor, an American reality television franchise, which leads into her belief that crushes are fostered by small spaces – she fell for her second husband (author Ben Marcus) at an arts colony even though they were both attached to other people at the time.

I was delighted to see Julavits quote the Julian Barnes passage on episodicism versus narrativism that inspired my post on that topic back in January. Unsurprisingly, Julavits sees herself as a narrativist, drawing connections between different points in her life. She’s always pondering what small incidents reveal about her character. We learn that she’s so averse to inconveniencing others that she continued a phone call while nursing a wasp sting and once planned to pee in an airsickness bag rather than wake the two sleepers between her and the aisle on a flight. She avoids yard sales because she’s so cutthroat, and she’s been known to romanticize her daily life when e-mailing a friend in London: “I probably didn’t tell the truthiest truths. I never made stuff up. But I did strive to be entertaining. Such embellishments do not constitute lies. They constitute your personality.”

In one of the pieces that stood out most for me, Julavits feels typecast as a woman of a certain age when she attends a Virginia Woolf reading. “I am of that age now where I am looking for the next age I will be. How will I dress? How will I act?” It’s a good example of how she uses these mini-essays to negotiate the stages of life and contemplate her changing roles. Elsewhere she sums up her composite identity and what she seeks from her writing:
I am a jack-of-all-trades. I edit and teach and at times desire to be a clothing designer or an artist … and I write everything but poetry and I am a mother and a social maniac and a misanthrope and a burgeoning self-help guru and a girl who wants to look pretty and a girl who wants to look sexy and a girl who wants to look girly and a woman in her middle forties who wishes not to look like anything at all, who wishes sometimes to vanish.

I sometimes think this is why I became a writer. Here was a way to regularly exercise my desire. I could desire to do this thing that no one does perfectly, and by doing it and doing it I could learn how to desire more, and better. Here was an activity that would always leave me wanting … not youth exactly, but the opposite of death. That to me is a way to always feel like I am nowhere near the end.
Inevitably, some entries are more interesting than others, and Julavits’ neuroticism may grate for some readers, but I found this book to be chock-full of quotable lines and insights into what it means to be a time-bound human being. Like one of May Sarton’s journals, I read it slowly, just a few pieces at a time over the course of weeks, and I’ll be keeping it on the shelf to flick through if I ever need an example of how to write a piercing, bite-sized fragment of autobiography. I highly recommend it.

(Note: The striking cover design is by Leanne Shapton.)

Originally published with images on my blog, Bookish Beck. ...more
3

Jan 13, 2015

When it comes to memoir and personal essays, I've always believed the writer needs to get as specific as possible about his or her experiences. If you try to write a bunch of generalizations in order to appeal to a wider audience, no one's going to relate to what you're saying. It's only when you get really personal about what you've been through that people can feel a kinship with you.

I still believe that, but I feel like I now need to add a caveat: If you're writing about your personal When it comes to memoir and personal essays, I've always believed the writer needs to get as specific as possible about his or her experiences. If you try to write a bunch of generalizations in order to appeal to a wider audience, no one's going to relate to what you're saying. It's only when you get really personal about what you've been through that people can feel a kinship with you.

I still believe that, but I feel like I now need to add a caveat: If you're writing about your personal experiences and want people to relate to them, you need to get as specific as possible--unless you are Heidi Julavits.

I mean, I honestly thought I would relate to Heidi Julavits. We're close in age! We both work with words in one way or another! We both love Maine! But as it turns out, her thoughts are so off the wall that I spent most of the book almost completely bewildered. Is there seriously a person alive who thinks this way? Yes, there is--her name is Heidi Julavits. Don't even try to understand.

I'm not sure this book needed to exist. I was initially really intrigued by the whole "diary" idea. "Diary" implies a certain day-to-day, intimate quality that you don't see very often in published works. But instead, these entries are more like essays, a bit aimless but definitely working off themes, and for some unknown reason their order is shuffled so they're not at all chronological. The whole "diary" idea is almost completely lost in that shuffle, leaving behind ... what, exactly? What is this book, anyway? Based on the confused last few entries, I don't think even Heidi Julavits knows.

Ultimately, this book is like spending time with a smart, quirky, funny, self-centered friend who would talk about herself all night long if you let her. I spent about a half hour with her each evening, and I did enjoy that half hour, but by the end she'd worn out her welcome. Heidi Julavits, time to take your tap handle and your large box of Clark Bars and your airsickness bag and hit the road. If I need you, I know where to find you ... but let's be honest, I'm not going to need you for anything. ...more
3

Jan 09, 2018

Today I finished this book, and wondered why those who seem to spend an extraordinary amount of time swimming in the pool of their own reflection can't seem to find the deep end of the pool.
3

Apr 21, 2015

April 23

Today I finished Heidi Julavits' The Folded Clock and resumed a book I'd barely started, Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. It's interesting how the disparate books you happen to be reading at or near the same time interact with each other in your brain and complement the experience of reading the othereven for someone like me, whose book choices have followed no singular logic, pulled in many directions.

I am working for a few more months at a bookstore before I start a Ph.D. program in April 23

Today I finished Heidi Julavits' The Folded Clock and resumed a book I'd barely started, Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. It's interesting how the disparate books you happen to be reading at or near the same time interact with each other in your brain and complement the experience of reading the other—even for someone like me, whose book choices have followed no singular logic, pulled in many directions.

I am working for a few more months at a bookstore before I start a Ph.D. program in English literature in the fall. This situation places a number of competing demands on my reading time. On one hand, these months before my program begins will likely be the last period of my life for a long time when I will be able to read what I want, rather than what's assigned or what a project demands, so I'd better try to read what I've been meaning to read forever as a prerequisite for considering myself a fully literature human, e.g. Don Quixote. (Interestingly, when a professor at my program advised that I take just this approach to my last months of freedom, she invoked Don Quixote as her example: "If you've always been meaning to read Don Quixote, read it now." I took this as a sign of how deeply simpatico we were, since Don Quixote really was at the top of that particular mental reading list for me. I still have not started Don Quixote.)

On another hand (this particular beast has more than two), the last few months at my bookstore represent a very cool and rapidly vanishing opportunity to review books on our store blog. Since my fantasy is to one day be important enough in the literary world to be paid to share my opinion about a book at some length, I feel the need to take advantage of this fleeting chance to publish reviews in a forum where they will actually be seen (not to mention the remuneration in $10 gift cards!). Of course, this means reading a very different type of book than Don Quixote: the not-yet-released and the newly released, e.g. The Folded Clock. These time-untested books pose a high risk that I will either have no respect for them and thus be unable to recommend them to the world, or that I will like them fine but not really have anything to say about them. Which defeats the goal with which I picked them up in the first place.

Finally, we have the shoring-up-of-perceived-reading-weaknesses-before-graduate-school category of book choice. One of these weaknesses for me is contemporary fiction, so that does overlap with my last category, but my biggest is critical theory/criticism. Needless to say, the marketing director of my popular independent bookstore will probably not be excited to publish my review of Of Grammatology, however enthusiastic.

Between these demands, my reading this year has been all over the map. A New Earth was actually the recommendation of a friend to whom I'd complained of certain negative emotions I couldn't seem to break free from, jealousy, resentment and the like. And of course this has nothing whatever to do with The Folded Clock, which I picked up because Heidi Julavits was coming to our store.

Until it did.

It should go without saying that I think highly of this friend. I am not (in my mind) the kind of person who reads A New Earth (although I am, in reality, reading A New Earth). I approach figures like Eckhart Tolle with the (un?)healthy skepticism of the snob. I don't like gurus. I don't like populizers. I don't like modern western interpreters (skewers) of ancient eastern ideas. (That is to say, I don't like them for myself; I have little doubt that people like Tolle have a more benificent influence on society than, say, Snookie or whoever. I just don't personally have a use for these people; I can read the original Buddhist thinkers for myself, thank you. I don't need Tolle to introduce me to a philosopher "whose name was Jean Paul Sartre." Fuck, I wish I were reading Sartre.)

But I do really love Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart (also pushed on me by a friend), so I need to give this Eckhart Tolle character a fair shake, despite the fact that I have heard of him. And, though I'm only 65 pages in right now, he seems like potentially necessary post-Folded Clock therapy. For the twentysomething who aspires to literary-somethingness and feels secretly convinced she will die alone, A New Earth and similar might be a fitting antidote for dangerous levels of exposure to the lifestyle and accomplishments of Heidi Julavits.

I know the barest of facts about Heidi Julavits, but what I know is enough. She is married to the writer Ben Marcus, with whom she co-founded The Believer (an anthology of which I am hip enough to own, though nowhere near hip enough to ever actually read, since it was published in a period after the 1790s). They are happily married and she thinks they will remain married. She is a highly respected novelist and writing teacher. She is pretty. Her first novel won an advance of $500,000, a sum I can't wrap my brain around. She and her family travel to places like Italy and Germany. When she was precisely my age (lest I comfort myself that these are the inevitable luxuries of the hardworking literary fortysomething), she went to Morocco.

I, who consider myself a not very materialistic person, have spent the last few months obsessing and agonizing and doing crazy uncharacteristic things for money so that I can afford to travel and see something of Europe before I buckle down for graduate school. I have been to three European countries—three more than my own father—but it's not enough. I want more. I am a bottomless wanting pit, a machine of endless desire. Heidi Julavits is the embodiment of my desires for myself, of what I want to be. She is a social butterfly; she throws dinner parties. If she were a lowly bookseller working in a bookstore at a special event where she happened to be speaking in promotion of The Folded Clock, she would probably be able to get up the nerve to talk to herself. (Then again, maybe not. Her diary recalls the days when she waited at Joan Didion's table and never told her that she could quote passages from her work.)

I still do not have the money to travel to Europe.

In the New York Times review of The Folded Clock, reviewer Eula Bliss notes Julavits' "rich life" but attests that she was spared "the discomfort of envying Julavits" by "becoming her" over the course of reading the diary. Eula Bliss must have recently read A New Earth (and be a far more skilled cultivator of the awareness that kills ego). I envy the hell out of Julavits' rich life. At the same time I am aware that I have not been alive as long as she has and there is still time to acquire or fail to acquire the things I want, and so I am terrified of not acquiring them. Wouldn't it be better to be completely unattached, to disassociate from such desires? Where can striving to be loved or fuckable or a great writer possibly lead us when we're all destined to age and die? Do I want to have ambitions and strive for them, or do I want to be spiritually awake and not identify with my lifestyle or my accomplishments? Probably this is a false dichotomy. I'm only 65 pages in.

Unlike Eula Bliss, I do not include making me become Heidi Julavits among Heidi Julavits' accomplishments in The Folded Clock. There are, however, many accomplishments. Like all diaries, this one is hopelessly self-involved, but she manages to be entertaining even to people who are demonstrably not Heidi Julavits. I occasionally laugh at her jokes; I am never not interested in her stories or her confessions. In her endless quest to pin down what exactly is this elusive, constructed identity of Heidi Julavits, even though it is not my quest because mine is a different identity. As for us all, her self-awareness is necessarily limited by her inability to escape her own perspective. How she believes she is universally perceived by the world and how I and a few other strangers-to-her perceived her when she came to our bookstore do not always line up. This is interesting to me, but does not necessarily speak to her powers as a writer.

In her reading at our store, she spoke of her diary as being a very different kind of writing exercise than her novels because she would begin each entry with "Today I..." and simply see where it would take her. She had no idea where she would be going beforehand, but when it worked, she knew she had gotten there. There was very little editing or rewriting; it was hit or miss reflection, with a starting point of that day and an ending point of anywhere. This seems like a good writing exercise for an aspiring twentysomething literarysomething, or anyone who is self-absorbed, which is to say anyone. ...more
4

May 07, 2015

The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits is a smart, clever, entertaining work. It is the fantasy diary we (meaning, I suppose, people who think about such things at all and attempt to write diaries or journals or any of those accounts of daily life) wish we wrote as opposed to what most of us actually come up with. Julavits holds different moments of her life, past and present, up in the light and watches what happens as the light breaks through these moments. It is more fragmentary than a The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits is a smart, clever, entertaining work. It is the fantasy diary we (meaning, I suppose, people who think about such things at all and attempt to write diaries or journals or any of those accounts of daily life) wish we wrote as opposed to what most of us actually come up with. Julavits holds different moments of her life, past and present, up in the light and watches what happens as the light breaks through these moments. It is more fragmentary than a memoir but more crafted than a diary.

I am struggling to write a review: I really liked this book but I did not always feel comfortable with the writer, at least as she is present in these pages (I don't actually know the writer, only the work with the illusion of being with the person writing). As a former Manhattan mom, the work triggered many memories that mostly interfered with my present experience.

So I will probably reread this book and try to write a better review. I recommend it for its strong writing and interesting perceptions.

...more
1

Apr 14, 2015

I've listened to two or three Heidi Julavits interviews and in all of them she has come across as smart, funny, interesting, and, well, sane. I've listened to many books narrated by Tavia Gilbert and I love the way she can bring a story to life. This was a match made in heaven. Until, it wasn't. Is it Tavia's narration that makes Heidi seem unhinged? Is it the stories Heidi tells? The ones where she admittedly does something really stupid, realizes many years later that it was stupid, then I've listened to two or three Heidi Julavits interviews and in all of them she has come across as smart, funny, interesting, and, well, sane. I've listened to many books narrated by Tavia Gilbert and I love the way she can bring a story to life. This was a match made in heaven. Until, it wasn't. Is it Tavia's narration that makes Heidi seem unhinged? Is it the stories Heidi tells? The ones where she admittedly does something really stupid, realizes many years later that it was stupid, then decides she wouldn't have done anything differently? The way she proclaims her hatred of name dropping then proceeds to name drop, without naming names, throughout the entire book? Is it the grating structure where each question is repeated as a statement or each statement is repeated as a question several times in each diary entry? e.g.: 'Today I met a famous artist for lunch. I met a famous artist for lunch because....,' or 'Why did I agree to share a rental car with a complete stranger? I agreed to share a rental car with a complete stranger because...' I don't want to get personal, but it's a diary, so, best to just say: this book and I were not a good fit. ...more
5

Jun 03, 2015

The truth is, I havent even finished The Folded Clock: A Diary yet. I believe Im on the last pages and Im 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? (Im not sure why I think it should be so fascinating to everyone who lives outside of my brain.) I start reading every 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, whoever 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. ...more
3

Apr 27, 2015

A few days ago at my book club someone asked if anyone in the group wrote. I said I did, and I would love to publish a book one day. No one else wrote or had the same aspirations. They asked me what it would be about. "Not about, really," I tried to explain, sounding loopy and pretentious. Would it be fiction or nonfiction? "Nonfiction, I think." That's odd, you never want to read nonfiction, but you want to write nonfiction? "I mean, not really nonfiction, not like history or anything... like, A few days ago at my book club someone asked if anyone in the group wrote. I said I did, and I would love to publish a book one day. No one else wrote or had the same aspirations. They asked me what it would be about. "Not about, really," I tried to explain, sounding loopy and pretentious. Would it be fiction or nonfiction? "Nonfiction, I think." That's odd, you never want to read nonfiction, but you want to write nonfiction? "I mean, not really nonfiction, not like history or anything... like, I write about my feelings..." I cringed at my choice of words. They looked baffled. I sighed, gave up, shrugged my shoulders, and tried not to feel personally attacked. I do not think that something like The Folded Clock would hold any appeal for them. But my obsession with self-awareness and painful self-examination will encourage me to pick up most things subtitled "A Diary."

The vanity of the thing is that most of us just aren't that interesting. I find myself fascinating, the way I alternately bear down and drown in things that happen to me, how I manage my pain and conduct myself in public, how I give advice to everyone and fail to take it myself, how my love life is an Amy Winehouse song without the drugs. I digress only to say that I am not novel, you are not novel, and Heidi Julavits is not novel. Sometimes that's comforting, and sometimes it's just boring; The Folded Clock falls into the latter category.

Heidi's life is more glamorous than she pretends it is; she alternates her time between Maine and New York City, casually hops over to Rome and Paris, sits down for coffee with famous artists in hipster NYC cafes. I hang out at a lot of hipster cafes, and all I can ever think of when I get settled in is, "Oh my god, these kids are studying. Why am I here? Am I too old to hang out in cafes? OK, a seventy-year-old just walked in. I should be fine." I always wonder where all these novelists and artists are.

Heidi's life is just so caj. She has neuroses and 2.5 children and a writer husband. She has tons of friends, tons of ex-boyfriends, and tons of observations. But I never felt like she was particularly confessional or self-examining. She was smart and amusing, but The Folded Clock lacked the intimacy its title and synopsis implied. She did this, and wasn't it totally funny that she made a mountain out of a molehill, and that her brain works mostly like the rest of ours do? It was calculated stream-of-consciousness, which isn't something that exists. Sense-of-consciousness, maybe? I don't know. Heidi's life is relatable if you're a forty-something white woman with a husband and kids, you've traveled around the world and lived in artist colonies, and you believe in psychics and ghosts. I don't now, maybe I just need everyone to be as self-deprecating as I am, but I didn't get a lot out of this. ...more
4

Jul 25, 2015

This book is a hoot. Julavits hits my funny bone just so. If I started pulling the quotes that made me laugh out loud we'd be here all day, so suffice it to say that I found this book extremely hilarious. Exactly what I needed to get the taste of So Much Pretty out of my mouth. Even better, mixed in with all of the funny are some profound bits about Life that struck me perfectly.This had to squeeze a little in order to get to four stars because there were some parts that dragged too much for my This book is a hoot. Julavits hits my funny bone just so. If I started pulling the quotes that made me laugh out loud we'd be here all day, so suffice it to say that I found this book extremely hilarious. Exactly what I needed to get the taste of So Much Pretty out of my mouth. Even better, mixed in with all of the funny are some profound bits about Life that struck me perfectly.This had to squeeze a little in order to get to four stars because there were some parts that dragged too much for my taste, but what the hell, I readily admit that I may have just been reading those bits when I was so tired I should have turned out the light & rolled over instead, so four it is. And here's a bit that I like, that I read to my husband - I don't know why I think this is laugh out loud funny, but I do. Thank you, Heidi Julavits.

"Most everyone living at the villa is an expert on foreign policy, on American and European intellectual history, on international economic issues, and on other topics I know nothing about. For months, my husband and I have worried that we'll have nothing to say to the experts at the many meals we're meant to share with them. Here is a good example of why we are worried. Last night my husband and I, in bed, Googled WW1 why did it happen." ...more
5

Dec 27, 2017

https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/153132...

Out of the blue I have been exposed to the writing of another somewhat contemporary literary icon. Her name is Heidi Julavits, significant other to writer Ben Marcus who is an unconfirmed ex-student of infamous teacher, editor, and writer Gordon Lish. I seem to remember Gordon making some not-so-nice remarks about Ben Marcus and feeling slighted or unappreciated by him. Lish not feeling credited enough with helping him, or something or other to that https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/153132...

Out of the blue I have been exposed to the writing of another somewhat contemporary literary icon. Her name is Heidi Julavits, significant other to writer Ben Marcus who is an unconfirmed ex-student of infamous teacher, editor, and writer Gordon Lish. I seem to remember Gordon making some not-so-nice remarks about Ben Marcus and feeling slighted or unappreciated by him. Lish not feeling credited enough with helping him, or something or other to that affect. It happens a lot with The Teacher. But I am careful, always, to not let it happen with me. Or any perceived affronts to surface in any way. No, I am not afraid of Gordon, but I do respect his eccentricities with its plagues and bouts of insecurity.

Heidi Julavits is one of the co-editors of the acclaimed magazine The Believer originating in San Francisco. She is also the author of several works previously ignored or unknown to me. But no longer is she kept at arm’s length as I recently discovered her previously published diary The Folded Clock. What a delight to unearth this rare gem amidst these current days of our horrendous electorate deciding the outcome for president of these United States. Clearly a choice for POTUS between a highly qualified and rational woman and the unseemly, almost unbelievable, monstrous caricature going by the name of Donald Trump. Any literary diversion for me today is abundantly welcomed if it helps me escape my current nightmare in facing the truth about the worrisome state of our country. But note here as well that I have no fear of reprisal from any so-called Clinton deplorable as they are not of the stripe that reads my kind of drivel found on the sort of pages you are presently reading. I am also confidant I could publish anything I want and face no immediate jeopardy in being found out by my few friends, even by my parents, or almost any other family member to speak of, less those I still remain in contact with. Numbers I must confess are few, and routinely dwindling.

A woman whose private thoughts had been for years confined to her journal, Julavits has wantonly written upon me. And in this somewhat substantial work Heidi Julavits details the many facts and facets of her daily life, her foibles and her prejudices, fairly and in a properly-sounding honesty rarely witnessed on the page. And respectfully, in frank contrast, I have never been able to connect with anything her husband has to say. Though I believe Ben Marcus is of much greater literary fame, I am incapable of understanding him, or perhaps the coded-ness of his words excludes me and bars me from entering the locked gates of his elitist club. It seems to happen more often to me with men. It is why I prefer to hang out (at least virtually) with women. But it is possible that I have never really applied myself to exercise an appropriate try in my entering the world imagined for example in his first book The Age of Wire and String. But his wife Heidi is different. I get her. And I wish my own wife would read her book and get to know her as well as I think I do. Good writing does that. But these two women have to be so completely different from each other, and not surprisingly, so often the same. Except my wife is yet to know this herself. For years neither my wife nor I had any idea there were actually women in the world like Heidi Julavits. It is so refreshing to witness such honesty on the page. But of course Heidi might be lying and me, being the too-reclusive and naive dumb ass I have historically been, falling for Julavits like a delusional lonely patron visiting his first strip club. (Fact: No dancer is really in love with you. You just think she is. It is her job.)

Although her book is called a diary, in many ways it isn’t. The individual episodes feel more like short essays to me. Each entry certainly does have a date on them just as diaries do, but they just as well could have been called chapters with titles heading them. The subjects vary widely, and are vast and numerous, but they always circle back to the personal Heidi Julavits and where she locates herself in each event, predicament, example, or given date. Unfortunately for us she doesn’t drop important names, and that is understandable, and in good taste. But she does mention by name famous dead people. Few names, it seems, if they are still living. Sort of puts the whammy on getting the full picture unless the reader is as well-read and educated as Heidi obviously is. I believe her work fails in this respect. In my mind any celebrity, dead or alive, qualifies to have their name revealed for obvious reasons. Especially reclusive writers who have made a sizable income from their public works. And I noticed she even resisted mentioning the title of an Austrian Haneke movie she was using as prop in one of her chapters, and for me it seemed important enough to name the horrific Funny Games as substantive to her point. I do not get her reasoning behind making certain books and films a mystery the reader is required to already know of, or have need themselves to resort to Googling on the internet. But this is a small fault when measured against such a momentous and original example of fine writing.

Some critics of Heidi Julavits take issue with her perceived life of privilege. Having a successful husband and two young children, all of them living in New York City most of the year, the family spending three months of every glorious summer at their seasonal home in Maine, and traveling all over the world to places like Italy to attend artist’s colonies and such, is certainly enviable, but she has earned it. I can only imagine all the hard work of her humble beginnings, the demands of networking in a most competitive environment, her participation in literary readings and symposiums, teaching and publishing, and her attempts at maintaining some semblance of a normal life while raising a family. Julavits appears to have no pretensions over believing she should win an award for being the best wife or mother. Like many of us she does the best she can.

Julavits says she reads with a fountain pen in her hand so she can fool herself into thinking she is writing. I prefer reading near my computer, if possible, as I often record notes and ideas that come to me in bursts. Too many times I am not in the vicinity of my handy keyboard with no pen nor paper in sight, and by the time I make it to either one I have forgotten the supposedly brilliant line I had just composed in my erratically winsome mind. It happened again this morning on my patio. I was remembering the very start of my reading this book on November 7, 2016, the unnerving fright-filled day before our POTUS election. And as I write this entry today the date is now November 13, a Sunday, and I only have a depressing (for me) nine pages left to read of The Folded Clock and I really do hate for this experience to end. But I also have come to better grips with myself over my candidate’s loss. God, am I ever sick of politics, pundits, and tweets. Let’s face it, the wrong person won, but we must get over it. Let him have his cake! Maybe he will somehow try to be a better person than he promised his deplorables he would be. And though I am exhibiting a rare tolerance for certain things Trump, my parents will not be given the same courtesy. I have yet to forgive them for reelecting Little George and The Dick to a disastrous second term in 2004. And they will receive no congratulatory call from me regarding their winning-candidate
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Yesterday I received by post two of the next three books I plan to read by Heidi Julavits, all novels, and surely to be in some measure disappointments for me. I cannot imagine her fiction possibly equaling the breadth and interest I felt in reading her diary. But what am I to do? Julavits says she has always wanted to be a novelist. But what if Julavits really knew how good she was with prose? I, for one, want more personal missives from her. She has so much to say, and I love how she says it. Such an engaging and fascinating personality comes through in her writing. Julavits always leaves me wanting. And desire, in all its many elaborate aberrations, is really never such a bad thing, is it? ...more
3

May 07, 2015

May 7

Today I begin reading the new book by an author I adore. It's a non-fiction work in diary format, a departure from the author's normal tales. I look forward to my time in these pages. How often have I wanted to better know an artist whose work I love? This is my chance. I feel I am being invited to the author's residence for coffee and am allowed to ask anything. What insight will this author have? What are her deepest fears and most unspoken desires? What is she like when she isn't being a May 7

Today I begin reading the new book by an author I adore. It's a non-fiction work in diary format, a departure from the author's normal tales. I look forward to my time in these pages. How often have I wanted to better know an artist whose work I love? This is my chance. I feel I am being invited to the author's residence for coffee and am allowed to ask anything. What insight will this author have? What are her deepest fears and most unspoken desires? What is she like when she isn't “being a writer”? I'm about to find out.


June 23

Today I finished trudging through the book I started last month. While my opinion of the author's talents regarding writing has not changed, my opinion of the author herself most definitely has. I had stated that I felt like I was being invited to the author's residence for coffee; I was wrong. While reading this book—this diary—I was transported to the author's residence, but it was for a formal dinner party, the kind where you feel awkward the entire time, wondering if everyone is staring at you because you put your fork down at the wrong angle on your plate. But no one at this party was paying me any attention, because the author was the center of the show. That's okay. It's what I expected. I wanted to know more about her. But what I'd hoped for was an intelligent conversation full of insight, humor, and heart. What I got instead was an intelligently-written drunken tirade. You know the dinner party where the hostess holds her wine glass at an angle and tells you about the time she urinated in a plane's airsickness bag and constantly reminds you how she's happy and stable? How she's glad she cheated on her first husband with her second, but keeps bringing it up every few minutes as if it haunts her? How she's proud to teach her eight-year-old daughter how to look more “fuckable”? How life is great because she spends the summer in Maine *sip* the winter in New York *sip* how she's been to Italy *sip* Germany *sip* France *sip* Morocco *sip*? That's the dinner party I just came home from.

I feel bad saying such things, because I really do appreciate this author's talent. While others have bashed her fiction (her four major works of fiction average a rating of 3.08 on Goodreads), called her writing juvenile and stilted, and written her off as an untalented hack, I have stood by her side. I have defended her brilliance. Ironically, it is this most recent work that maintains a rating that borders four stars. Apparently, I am in the minority.

What is it about this diary that others love? Is it the anecdote-laden short passages that are about nothing and everything? Is it the gossip? Is it the extravagant lifestyle? The constant abandon the author shows? Or the author's curious love of the reality television show, The Bachelor? Whatever it is, I want none of it.

I think what irritated me most is how the author repeatedly mentioned her woes and talked about her inability to buy things she wanted. In fact, a huge chunk of this book is about eBay shopping. When combined with her many mentions of her foreign travels and her dinner parties with elite artists, this book seems to be about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Maybe the author wishes for more than second-hand Internet shopping. Maybe travels to Europe are not enough. But as someone who knows what “starving artist” means, as someone who gave up full-time employment and security to write a novel and stay home with my kids, as someone who can't afford a vacation outside of the state of Kansas, and as someone who saves and saves and saves in order to buy $50 shoes from Famous Footwear, I find the author's complaints about $500 boots repulsive. There are much bigger concerns in the world, but the writer seems unaware or uncaring.

I hope the writer can forgive me. I did love the cadence and beauty of many of the sentences in this work. Maybe there is some brilliance in the parallel drawn between the juvenile diary of an adolescent girl and the juvenile diary of a middle-aged woman. I am still a fan. But my dearest author, I do not wish to be your friend. I hope you will continue to write many wonderful works of fiction, but please do not invite me again for a dinner party. I will come to your readings. I will continue to defend your novels. But friends we cannot be. And please know that your confusion of the Library of Congress classification with Dewey Decimal is unforgivable. For everything else, I'll accept apology in the form of a new novel. ...more
2

Sep 26, 2015

I realized about half way through that if I didn't stop reading, I wouldn't be able to read another Julavits novel. And I'm not sure I stopped soon enough.

Those novels--specifically "The Vanishers" and "The Uses of Enchantment"-- have been important to me. At one point in "The Folded Clock" Julavits overhears two male writer friends of hers describe a third man as "not a threat," which makes her wonder whether a woman novelist would ever be considered a threat. If her novels fail that test, it I realized about half way through that if I didn't stop reading, I wouldn't be able to read another Julavits novel. And I'm not sure I stopped soon enough.

Those novels--specifically "The Vanishers" and "The Uses of Enchantment"-- have been important to me. At one point in "The Folded Clock" Julavits overhears two male writer friends of hers describe a third man as "not a threat," which makes her wonder whether a woman novelist would ever be considered a threat. If her novels fail that test, it is only because they are so eminently readable: their considerable conceptual smarts do not make them a slog. She can do the realist dialogue; set a thriller's pace, and make us feel, without being any less brilliant for it.

It would be a real loss not to be able to enjoy Julavits. It's not that "The Folded Clock" wasn't smart, sensitive, etc. etc. etc. But she's entirely bourgeois in her outlook, with a topping of cute quirks to distract from privileges she, at least, seems oblivious to. Exhausting.


...more
0

Jul 07, 2015

I really loved the cover and the concept but couldn't get into the book itself.
3

Apr 14, 2015

Like someone telling you her secrets (and others' secrets) and then musing on them, philosophizing about them.

Also, and maybe more importantly she has convinced me to get rid of my bad luck pants. Yes, I have a pair of trousers that are chocolate brown with a light stripe thru them. I bought them secondhand and it seems that every time I wear them, I get bad luck. I kept wearing them, though, because I wanted to resist superstition, and then I finally stopped wearing them because who wants to Like someone telling you her secrets (and others' secrets) and then musing on them, philosophizing about them.

Also, and maybe more importantly she has convinced me to get rid of my bad luck pants. Yes, I have a pair of trousers that are chocolate brown with a light stripe thru them. I bought them secondhand and it seems that every time I wear them, I get bad luck. I kept wearing them, though, because I wanted to resist superstition, and then I finally stopped wearing them because who wants to know that today something bad will happen and you brought it on yourself? Now, I am going to just throw them out. The author bought a used ring and it brought her bad luck. She took it to a psychic and the psychic told her the ring used to belong to a bad or unhappy man.

You see, you can learn important lessons from the reading of good books.

Quotes: "In most couples there is the person who wins and the person who doesn't. The winner isn't necessarily stronger or smarter or righter. The winner is the person who won't give up, and the non-winner at a certain point, realizes the battle is a silly one, and the spoils are not worth the extended warfare. I am the winner in my relationship, which is why I have so much respect for the non-winner. The non-winner, i.e., my husband, doesn't give a shit whether or not he's going to win the fight over the new dishwasher's load capacity, or how to best teach children to calculate military time. I wish I were not always the winner. But this is like wishing I were not a girl."

"Episodists see and feel little connection between the different parts of their life, have a more fragmentary sense of life, and tend not to believe in the concept of free will. Narrativists feel and see constant connectivity, and enduring self, and acknowledge free will as the instrument which forges their self and their connectedness. Narrativists feel responsibility for their actions and guilt over their failures; episodicists think that one thing happens, and then another thing happens....Narrativists tend to find episodicists selfish and irresponsible, while episocidists tend to find narrativists boring and bourgeois."

"Sometimes I don't think any of us really believes anything we say; we are just defending our kind."

"Now I no longer have strong gut feelings about rightness or wrongness. I lack quick conviction. I can no longer process the messages the universe is sending me, if it is sending me messages at all. I didn't even know whether or not today I made a friend." ...more
5

Apr 14, 2015

I wanted to live inside of Julavits' head forever. This dairy is approachable, hilarious and honest. THE FOLDED CLOCK's language is beautiful--I loved getting lost in this book.
4

Jan 22, 2017

How unassuming is a diary? It is the form that most teenage girls take to, and thus, carrying no pretensions of art, it is the perfect form for surprising us with art. This is not the confessional tell-all feelings-fest that you think it is. Or at least that's not all it is. It definitely plays with concepts of confessional, tell-all, and feelings. She goes there, but not without a lot of self-conscious humor and a lot of subversive play.

Time and the self are both deconstructed, and what is a How unassuming is a diary? It is the form that most teenage girls take to, and thus, carrying no pretensions of art, it is the perfect form for surprising us with art. This is not the confessional tell-all feelings-fest that you think it is. Or at least that's not all it is. It definitely plays with concepts of confessional, tell-all, and feelings. She goes there, but not without a lot of self-conscious humor and a lot of subversive play.

Time and the self are both deconstructed, and what is a diary if not the intersection between the self and time?

These pieces do start off with a date and time, though even that time is complicated by a seemingly randomized order of the dates. And once she starts with those same words ("Today I...") she moves in unexpected ways into memories and wishes and dreams the way a person thinks, but also turning her attention to the way she herself thinks, i.e. the thinker thinking upon thinking. Much of this thinking is about the self and the construction of the self, how our selves and our motives are often contradictory, hypocritical, and self serving. But not in any of those words, that would be a bore... on the surface it just looks like she's talking about watching reality TV with her husband.

There's a lot of overlap with Lydia Davis in here, except that where Davis is more obviously stylized and concerned with language and linguistics, Julavits is more concerned with the idea of "honesty" which is almost always a moving target, and perhaps gains a strange new non-meaning in the context of a diary written expressly for publication (ha!). It seems to me that her protagonist, for she very obviously is her own constructed fiction here no matter how much she shares in common with the person she writes down on the page, is involved in a complex multi-layered heist in which she fools us into believing something that she fools herself into writing.

And throughout, we (she and I) are having so much sneaky fun! Who cares if we're being really clever about it, we're also laughing the whole way there. The places she goes with this simple "Today I..." prompt is sometimes surprising, and almost always more interesting than what actually happened on that day. Sometimes she ends up with a morsel of wisdom, but more often than not she ends up in a place of profound uncertainty. Where there are no answers, but the question seems very well posed.

Some have criticized her for writing about a life of privilege. She writes about artist colonies in Italy and staying in Maine for the summer, and online shopping and watching the Bachelor, etc. But she writes about things in such a self-mocking way half of the time, it doesn't seem offensive to me. She realizes she's privileged! But she can't help it! Would you rather she (as a privileged woman) pretend to be slumming it and write about how hard life is? Now that would be an interesting premise for a subversion of "honesty".

For me, this was a solid 5 stars, but docked back half a star because it went on just a tad too long, and I started to drift. Maybe 50-100 pages could have been cut. ...more
5

Apr 19, 2015

Julavits would be an entertaining dinner guestsmart, witty and yet self-aware, comfortable in her own skin. Her writing snaps. Despite the title, this book isnt so much a diary as it is a constructed set of loosely coupled, short essays. Each entry starts with the phrase Today I but then launches into often unexpected directions. Loved it. Julavits would be an entertaining dinner guest—smart, witty and yet self-aware, comfortable in her own skin. Her writing snaps. Despite the title, this book isn’t so much a diary as it is a constructed set of loosely coupled, short essays. Each entry starts with the phrase “Today I…” but then launches into often unexpected directions. Loved it. ...more
5

Mar 21, 2015

Who would have thought a book that starts every chapter with Today...would be both so funny and so interesting? Each diary entry starts with some sort of minor event, but then builds upon itself to become something insightful, revealing or just entertaining. Freeing herself of the conventions of plot and character found in a novel, Julavits just lets the stories flow. Excellent.

I received an ARC of The Folded Clock: A Diary.
3

Jul 03, 2016

It was very amusing at some parts and I felt sorry for Heidi for having SO much on her mind ALL the time. Stuff to worry about, zillion scenarios for every mundane everyday situation..Yes she is witty and very contemporary indeed but three stars because self-centred way beyond my limit of tolerance. And what is rather weird is that she strives to be close to the reader by sharing very personal details but I found very few moments in the book where I could connect with what she was going on It was very amusing at some parts and I felt sorry for Heidi for having SO much on her mind ALL the time. Stuff to worry about, zillion scenarios for every mundane everyday situation..Yes she is witty and very contemporary indeed but three stars because self-centred way beyond my limit of tolerance. And what is rather weird is that she strives to be close to the reader by sharing very personal details but I found very few moments in the book where I could connect with what she was going on about. I was rather annoyed by her moral standards I guess.
I would not say it was time wasted though as most of the chapters were pretty entertaining, just nothing exceptional for me, this book.

Edit: I will up my review to 3.5 stars cos I have smirked at least 5 times, thinking back at her different predicaments. Also she has a lot of self-irony which is always a healthy thing. ...more
5

May 03, 2015

What a great book! It's a diary, although the years are not specified and the dates are not consecutive.  

Each of the entries starts "Today I ..." and what follows is a riff and whatever it was she did or thought on that day - almost like she's writing Jazz.  Some entries are funny (meeting an elderly famous person when she's wearing a bathing suit),  some self-reflective (why is her dieting husband threatening?), and metaphoric (if the barn stands without the rocks for support, her marriage What a great book! It's a diary, although the years are not specified and the dates are not consecutive.  

Each of the entries starts "Today I ..." and what follows is a riff and whatever it was she did or thought on that day - almost like she's writing Jazz.  Some entries are funny (meeting an elderly famous person when she's wearing a bathing suit),  some self-reflective (why is her dieting husband threatening?), and metaphoric (if the barn stands without the rocks for support, her marriage should withstand the slip of paper the wedding vows were written on.) along the way we encounter her children, current husband, first husband, friends and acquaintances who pop up on various days.

The last entry was begun early in the writing, but finished at the end.  It, too, is a great "folded" riff and makes a great ending to this memoir.  Heidi - Ifeel like I know you!
...more

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