Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“But you make me happy. It’s living up to being happy that’s the difficult part.”

Book: The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

I adore this book. It reminds me of a cross between Slaughterhouse Five and The History of Love–which is some high praise. I suppose it’s kind of “girly,” and very romantic, so if that’s not your jam, then this probably won’t be either…but it’s really, really beautiful. Tragic in parts, but beautiful. I’ve reread it several times, and every time i do, I find new passages to underline/lose my breath over.

CLARE: It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays. I keep myself busy. Time goes faster that way.

I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I’m tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that’s been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?

Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow?

“He said something interesting: he said that he thinks there is only free will when you are in time, in the present. He says in the past we can only do what we did, and we can only be there if we were there.”

I feel a weird combination of freedom and despair. I’m sweating; he opens the window and cold air floods into the room. “But then I’m not responsible for anything I do while I’m not in the present.”
He smiles. “Thank God.”
“And everything has already happened.”
“Sure looks that way…But he said that you have to behave as though you have free will, as though you are responsible for what you do.”
“Why? What does it matter?”
“Apparently, if you don’t, things are bad. Depressing.”

“I thought free will had to do with sin.”
I think about this. “No,” I say, “why should free will be limited to right and wrong? I mean, you just decided, of your own free will, to take off your shoes. It doesn’t matter, nobody cares if you wear shoes or not, and it’s not sinful, or virtuous, and it doesn’t affect the future, but you’ve exercised your free will.”
Clare shrugs. “But sometimes you ell me something and I feel like the future is already there, you know? Like my future has happened in the past and I can’t do anything about it.”
“That’s called determinism,” I tell her. “It haunts my dreams.”

“What’s the opposite of determinism?”
“Oh. I don’t think I like that. Do you like that?”
…“I do and I don’t. Chaos is more freedom; in fact, total freedom. But no meaning. I want to be free to act, and I also want my actions to mean something.”

“Do you ever miss him?” She asks me.
“Every day. Every minute.”
“Every minute,” she says. “Yes. It’s that way, isn’t it?”

“I love him. He’s my life. I’ve been waiting for him, my whole life, and now, he’s here.” I don’t know how to explain. “With Henry, I can see everything laid out, like a map, past and future, everything at once, like an angel…”

“I wish for a moment that time would lift me out of this day, and into some more benign one. But then I feel guilty for wanting to avoid the sadness; dead people need us to remember them, even if it eats us, even if all we can do is say “I’m sorry” until it is as meaningless air.”

“He’s an alcoholic. That’s what alcoholics do. It’s in their job description: Fall apart, and then keep falling apart.”

“Come and be bedded, almost-wife. It’s the only warm spot in the whole place.” We climb in.
“We do everything out of order, don’t we?”
“You have a problem with that?”
“No. I like it.”
“Good. You’ve come to the right man for all your extrachronological needs.”

“The compelling thing about making art – or making anything, I suppose – is the moment when the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances.”

“Now every absence is a nonevent, a subtraction, an adventure I will hear about when my adventurer materializes at my feet, bleeding or whistling, smiling or shaking. Now I am afraid when he is gone.”

“We laugh and laugh, and nothing can ever be sad, no one can be lost, or dead, or far away: right now we are here, and nothing can mar our perfection, or steal the joy of this perfect moment.”

“There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.”

“Don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”

“I’m living under water. Everything seems slow and far away. I know there’s a world up there, a sunlit quick world where time runs like dry sand through an hourglass, but down here, where I am, air and sound and time and feeling are thick and dense.”

“I am overwhelmed by desire, by a longing to be connected to Clare as strongly as possible, to be here, now. I kiss her very lightly, lingering, thinking about nothing. She is drunk with sleep moves her hand to my face and wakes more as she feels the solidity of me. Now she is present; she runs her hand down my arm, a caress.”

“But you make me happy. It’s living up to being happy that’s the difficult part.”

“The space that I can call mine…is so small that my ideas have become small. I am like a caterpillar in a cocoon of paper; all around me are sketches for sculptures, small drawings that seem like moths fluttering against the windows, beating their wings to escape from this tiny space.. Every day the ideas come more reluctantly, as though they know I will starve them and stunt their growth.”

“I feel guilty for wanting to avoid the sadness, dead people need us to remember them, even if it eats us, even if all we can do is say “I am sorry”, until its as meaningless as air.”

“I feel that I an everything to her.”

“Maybe I’m dreaming you. Maybe you’re dreaming me; maybe we only exist in each other’s dreams and every morning when we wake up we forget all about each other.”


Filed under: Audrey Niffenegger,

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