Summary and book reviews of The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits

The Folded Clock

A Diary

by Heidi Julavits

The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2016, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

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About this Book

Book Summary

A raucous, stunningly candid, deliriously smart diary of two years in the life of the incomparable Heidi Julavits

Like many young people, Heidi Julavits kept a diary. Decades later she found her old diaries in a storage bin, and hoped to discover the early evidence of the person (and writer) she'd since become. Instead, "The actual diaries revealed me to possess the mind of a paranoid tax auditor." The entries are daily chronicles of anxieties about grades, looks, boys, and popularity. After reading the confessions of her past self, writes Julavits, "I want to good-naturedly laugh at this person. I want to but I can't. What she wanted then is scarcely different from what I want today."

Thus was born a desire to try again, to chronicle her daily life as a forty-something woman, wife, mother, and writer. The dazzling result is The Folded Clock, in which the diary form becomes a meditation on time and self, youth and aging, betrayal and loyalty, friendship and romance, faith and fate, marriage and family, desire and death, gossip and secrets, art and ambition. Concealed beneath the minute obsession with "dailiness" are sharply observed moments of cultural criticism and emotionally driven philosophical queries.  In keeping with the spirit of a diary, the tone is confessional, sometimes shockingly so, as the focus shifts from the woman she wants to be to the woman she may have become.

Julavits's spirited sense of humor about her foibles and misadventures, combined with her ceaseless intelligence and curiosity, explode the typically confessional diary form.  The Folded Clock is as playful as it is brilliant, a tour de force by one of the most gifted prose stylists in American letters.

August 9

Today I took my kids to the cemetery to talk to E. B. White. E. B. White is buried next to his wife, Katharine Angell White, and their son, Joel White. I urge my children to tell E. B. what a great writer he is, because writers can never get enough reassurance about the importance of their work (even among dead writers this is true). Also E. B. White was a man of great humility; it is a privilege to live, for part of the year, a quarter of a mile from his grave, and to contribute to his eternal renown by remembering certain lines he wrote, for example these:

A person who writes of this and that stands in the same relation to his world as a drama critic to the theater. He is full of free tickets and implied obligations. He can't watch the show just for the fun of it. And watching the show just for the fun of it, once that privilege is forfeited, begins to seem like the greatest privilege there is.

This afternoon, however, we were here to ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Every entry in The Folded Clock starts with the word "Today," but this is not a diary of events and happenings: this is far more a journal of the mind. Each "Today" moment serves as a setting off point for Julavits' sharp wit, her observation and her unblinking consideration of themes. Heidi Julavits is first and foremost a writer: someone who talks about her craft and has composed and deliberately structured this diary in a non-linear form, yet there is an overarching sense of candor and honesty in The Folded Clock that makes it a memorable and admirable piece of work. Highly recommended.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Full Review (694 words).

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Media Reviews

Los Angeles Times

[S]cathingly funny.... [O]ddly exhilarating.... Julavits, as we know from her inventive novels...is a pro at spinning stories.

O, The Oprah Magazine

[A] cleverly crafted, thoughtfully entertaining series of meditations on personhood and culture.... complex and captivating.

Entertainment Weekly

[A] profound meditation on the passing of time.

New York Times Book Review

[A] work so artful that it appears to be without artifice. This diary is a record of the interior weather of an adept thinker. In it, the mundane is rendered extraordinary through the alchemy of effortless prose. It is a work in which a self is both lost and found, but above all made.

Publishers Weekly

The diary angle makes for a clever hook, but masks what this really is - a compelling collection of intimate, untitled personal essays that reveal one woman's ever-evolving soul.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Compelling and truly creative, this is a book that the reader will want to return to again and again - in other words, a perfect book.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. An inventive, beautifully crafted memoir, wise and insightful.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Diaries of Marie Vassiltchikov and the Goncourt Brothers

In The Folded Clock, which is a curated selection of Julavits' journal entries over two years, she writes about reading diaries by Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf. These are two giants of twentieth-century literature and thought, but Julavits also references other less well-known practitioners of the craft, including Marie Vassiltchikov (Berlin Diaries) and the Goncourt brothers.

Marie Vassiltchikov Marie Vassiltchikov was a Russian princess who emigrated with her parents to Germany as a young child. During World War II, Vassiltchikov, who was proficient in English, managed to find employment in the Information Department of the German Foreign Ministry. Her Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945, chronicle Vassiltchikov's daily life and experiences during the war. ...

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