The Folded Clock
By Heidi Julavits
Doubleday, 290 pp. $26.95
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Reviewed by Hillary Rea
With novelist Heidi Julavits' memoir-in-diary-form, The Folded Clock, life seems pleasant, for the most part. The journal chronicles two recent years in her life as a fortysomething successful author of four novels and co-editor of the literary magazine Believer. She has a functional marriage and a strong relationship with her two children, and she jets to artist residencies in European villas and secluded New England woods. There aren't too many unexpected confessions within these pages.
It's refreshing to read daily accounts of a comfortable life. Julavits approaches these pages as a woman frankly enjoying adulthood. She even writes: "I would never claim not to be lucky." She is, she writes, "[so] lucky that I am terrified of luck."
Julavits talks a lot about her relationship with her second husband (name not mentioned); she makes sure the reader knows that he, too, is a successful writer. The diary stays fairly lighthearted about the dynamics of their marriage. They bond over weekly viewings of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, which they refer to as "the Franchise."
Each entry ranges from one to six pages, just enough to dabble in one moment before moving on to the next. Julavits paints supporting characters with haiku-like precision: "We'd been married by an Internet-anointed, ex-fighter-pilot-turned-mussel-farmer."
Among the daily happinesses in The Folded Clock, the entries filled with her anxieties and neuroses are the most satisfying. The longest and most thrilling entry, and the only one to tell a complete story, is six pages. Julavits is stranded at the Nashville airport and agrees to drive back to New York City with a stranger from her cancelled flight. After 20 hours in a rental car with this cop from Staten Island, she sets out to defy gender stereotypes - and forgets her wallet at a rest stop and has a crying fit in a motel room covered in cat urine.
Each entry is dated by month and day only, jumping from August to January to May. Each begins with "Today I . . ." It's thus impossible to track a change in Julavits. We see the same woman from the first page to the last. At the end, she touches on the elusiveness of time. "I seem to have lost 'today,' " she writes. With some frustration, the reader loses it, too.