‘The Folded Clock,’ by Heidi Julavits

29-cover-master675Eula Bliss at The New York Times:

Heidi Julavits once said that keeping a diary when she was young is what made her a writer. Julavits, the author of four novels, ­revisits that story in the opening pages of her latest work, “The Folded Clock.” She tells of returning to her childhood diaries ­after making that claim, looking for ­evidence of the writer she would ­become. “The actual diaries, however, fail to corroborate the myth I’d concocted for ­myself,” she admits. “They reveal me to possess the mind, not of a future writer, but of a future paranoid tax auditor. I exhibited no imagination, no trace of a style, no wit, no personality.” With “The ­Folded Clock,” she corrects the ­record. Keeping a ­diary may not have made her a writer, but becoming a writer has made it ­possible for her to produce, now, an exquisite diary.

This diary is a diary in the way that Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions of an English Opium Eater” is a confession, or that Daniel Defoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year” is a journal, or that Sei Shonagon’s “Pillow Book” is a pillow book. Meaning it is, and it isn’t. “The Folded Clock” refuses one of the primary conventions of the diary: chronology. The entry for July 16 is followed by Oct. 18, which is followed by June 18. Time moves loosely forward, so that the final entries occur a year or two after the initial entries, but time loops and circles forward.

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