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The Folded Clock: A Diary


The Folded Clock: A Diary

A diary read is a diary loved, loathed, exposed, unlived, lived again, stolen and sold. Heidi Julavits lets it all hang out for posterity’s sake in THE FOLDED CLOCK. Time, of course, is at the heart of this tell-most autobiographical experiment. Her time becomes ours, reading becomes Michael Cunningham’s THE HOURS or Alan Lightman’s EINSTEIN’S DREAMS, though a psycho-inversion is where we are dropped off, just as fast as we were picked up from her mammoth burning bridge.

At middle age, Julavits was misdiagnosed with an incurable disease that would bring unbearable daily pain and eventual death: “eventually I stopped thinking about suicide. Instead I became regularly beset by deep topics like time. I said to my husband, ‘Perhaps I am meant to be one of the great convalescents.’ By which I meant writers who popularized the lap blanket or wrote in bed, and whose literary greatness was proportionate to their physical misery.”

"At her best, Julavits writes all of our diaries, writer or not. We see ourselves in her experiences and words, from phobias to neighbors."

Julavits, who begins each entry with “Today…”, holds on to a bridge brace to keep her mind and body together. Yet the reader in retrospect feels all the more poor for the writer because in no less than 14 entries, Julavits burns new bridges built to her from others. “I left,”; “She never wrote back”; “…I was too inhibited to introduce myself to (Bret Easton Ellis and Joan Didion)”; “I didn’t respond.”; and on and on. Is it meant to be a metaphor for all of us --- that we are always our own worst enemies? Or is Julavits a failure at seeing her fear of people, yet a master at chronicling this phobia?

At her best, Julavits writes all of our diaries, writer or not. We see ourselves in her experiences and words, from phobias to neighbors. She brings us around the world --- to Italy, Germany and other places --- to find ourselves constantly running away from ourselves while desperately trying to save ourselves and our families from the world’s temptations and accidents. My copy of THE FOLDED CLOCK is filled with Post-It notes and pencil underlinings that I am just starting to fear and figure out.

“The disappearance of the invisible but present object --- time --- is how we fall back into love with people we never, according to language at least, stopped loving.” An accomplished novelist and now diarist, Julavits constantly compares her success (or lack thereof) to other writers. How can one so self-inflicted by worry change our world or deliver the word in a way we never imagined? THE FOLDED CLOCK takes each breath and proves what we question, measured in time. Slowly and methodically measured. In time. In time.

Reviewed by Brandon Stickney on May 22, 2015

The Folded Clock: A Diary
by Heidi Julavits

  • Publication Date: March 8, 2016
  • Genres: Essays, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0804171440
  • ISBN-13: 9780804171441