Friday, September 25, 2009

Open Letter to Audrey Niffenegger

I will not go see the movie The Time Traveler’s Wife. One look at the preview and I was too worried they’d get it wrong and all my imagined scenes would be erased, supplanted with a sub par version of your work. Besides, Eric Bana simply doesn’t look edgy enough to be Henry and if they soften him, they’ve missed the point.

It goes back to my childhood. My mother never let us watch the movie before we’d read the book . She never would let us watch The Little House on the Prairie because it wasn’t true enough to the original, despite all my wailing that it was a good show. Naturally this was maddening as a child, but she was right. After watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I only have one imagined scene left in my brain (of the Ents). All the others are filled with movie characters and scenes. I am also refusing to watch The Chronicles of Narnia etc. and am not allowing my children to do so either, though I have read several of the books aloud to them.

I must tell you, though, of my experience reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was a book-club selection this spring and typically I don’t gravitate to love stories. OK. I actively avoid them. But this one I could handle. I guess it had enough sci-fi in it to pique my interest. Really, though, I loved it. So much of Henry and Clare’s life-long relationship rang true to my own relationship and marriage. I’ve known my husband since we were in the 4th grade, went to the same high school, but didn’t start dating until we were in college. (We’ve now been married for 13 years.) The sense of knowing someone so long that you cease remembering life without that person… I could relate.

Aside from that, I grew up in Northern Indiana so visited Chicago frequently and even taught high school English in Southwestern Michigan.

The more I read, the more I avoided everything else to keep reading (including eating foods like sandwiches that don’t require you look elsewhere). Plus I was under deadline to get it done for book club. And then, the night before our discussion, I ran into a sentence that didn’t make any sense at all. I read it again. It still didn’t make any sense. I looked at the page numbers, as the sentence ran onto a second page… It skipped. My pages went from 354 to 323. Then they repeated up to 354 and jumped to 387.

I was utterly confounded and frustrated. I put the book down, emailed a close friend about borrowing her copy, but we couldn’t arrange a meeting until book club. I went to the library the next morning, but the book was checked out. I emailed another friend to check the library close to her… Nothing worked. So I did the only thing I could: I had a Henry Experience reading about Henry. (I wondered, however briefly, if this had been done intentionally…)

So, I began reading again at page 387, at which point Henry has already had a child I didn’t know they’d been successful in birthing and he has died. Or that’s how it seemed when I picked up the storyline. Then, a few days later, my accurate copy came from Amazon (after I complained) and I filled in the missing chunk of time and everything made sense. Just like Henry.

Of all the books to have such a pagination flaw! It was a reading experience I will never forget.

I have yet to make my own set of terrible wings, but I want to. I sketched out some initial plans and purchased blood red paper at DK Puttyroot the next week. I’ll use some black and maroon silk I have here at the house too. Though I’m thinking no bigger than a foot square of space. (You may have been to DK Puttyroot. It’s in my hometown of Burnsville, about 20 minutes from Penland School of Crafts. It’s one of my favorite places.)

Anyway, I had to share this odd experience with you. And if you ever feel up for a trip to the mountains some September, there’s a small literary festival we hold here each year. If you’re interested…

Happy writing & creating,

Britt Kaufmann

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