I’ve had my nose in a book of one sort or another for a good chunk of my life. I generally favour fiction but frequently nonfiction gets a look in, and even text books have had their moment depending on where I’m at (I have also been known to rebrand trashy magazines ‘journals’ to justify smashing through them). There are peaks and troughs, of course; maybe it’s got something to do with my new mountainous surrounds but I’m currently on a steep incline. I suspect there’s also an element of escapism from my day to day required – partly to balance out the potentially overwhelming nature of this move, but also to fill the sometimes relentlessly long days (think apartment / less than stellar weather / restless frustrated possibly teething baby and welcome to my current hell). I’ve just finished the Maeve Kerrigan series (the print equivalent to binge-watchable TV. We’re not huge telly people at the best of times and in Deutsch it’s even less appealing, so this had it covered), the Spellman series (a comedy detective series, a genre I didn’t even know existed and which probably doesn’t need to), a couple of Stephen King novels (one on time travel and the other a non-fiction. He’s an author I never rated but had also never read since my teen years. I stand corrected), a book on ‘fixing’ baby sleep (in desperation, even though I knew as I bought it that it would be a waste of my time and eyes), a couple of easy-to-read and amusing David Sedaris essay compilations and – finished this morning – Time and Again by Jack Finney.
The Finney novel was recommended by Stephen King (in the credits of his own time travel novel. I obviously don’t know the guy and am certainly not on terms to sit down with him for a chat about what I may fancy reading next. If I was, I would probably be more interested in finding out if it would be possible to use his work to scare the girl to sleep) as being the best of its genre. I’m not normally one for fantasy or science fiction novels, but sometimes when you’re spiralling down a path you may as well roll with it. Written in the 70s, its explanation of time travel was based on an Einstein theory*: time is fluid, like a river. Taking this literally, a physicist in the novel proposed that one could, when the river bent back on itself, use self hypnosis to jump to the earlier time. It required a knowledge of what that time was like, to convince oneself it was actually happening and therefore allow the person to make the transition. It was an interesting device – more believable than a clumsy time travel machine (although I have no beef at all with the DeLorean) and slightly more so than the ‘freak of nature’ plot lines in their various forms (and all of a sudden it becomes apparent I’ve read my fair share of time travelling novels. Busted). Time and Again focused on a jump to 1880s New York City via an unmodernised hotel, but alluded to other projects such as 14th century France via the Notre Dame and a late 1700s Native American settlement.
I’ve been thinking about this premise a lot over the last few days. I spend a significant amount of my time walking the trails around our village, particularly in the early morning and late afternoons. I’m motivated for several reasons: two of them are edible and start with ch, and the third is cute enough to eat but apparently there are taboos against such behaviour. It only takes a few minutes to leave our small town and all of a sudden we’re crunching through the forest, or passing farmhouses, or on the shores of the lake. The hustle and bustle – train station, shops and those infernal bells – is gone.
Perhaps it’s true for most places, if you stop to think about it, but it feels like there’s something about this area that makes jumping back in time feasible. Maybe it’s the acrid earthy pungency (otherwise known as a rank, rank stink) of the dairy land, the cutting burn of the Autumn air at the back of your throat so vicious you can taste it, the trees gradually yet inevitably mellowing and ageing into winter, those brutal beautiful mountains rising above us all. Physical, obvious experiences that are as tangibe now as they must have been forever (or as long as cows have been domesticated, at any rate). A few days ago, the fog was thinking about lifting just as the sun shot through across the hills (I have neither Tim’s eye nor camera, and thus was unable to capture it appropriately), and it could have been today, or ten years ago, or ten thousand. I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the time jump, and nor was my girl, but the novel shifted from being an interesting time wasting dalliance to almost believable, obtainable. With renewed enthusiasm, I finished it this morning and it had a well rounded, satisfactory finale (unlike you, Spellman series). Even though we didn’t discuss it over coffee, and I will never know if It is the answer to all our bedtime woes, King’s advice was sound.
*I don’t know if this is an actual Einstein theory or not. It could totally be the scientific equivalent of one of these, usually found on Pinterest. I’m too uneducated in physics (phygnorant?) to know, and too lazy to check.