Reader's Exchange

Do you really want to be timeless?

Topic for the day:  Time Travel.  It’s due to Round Rock Antique Mall and the vintage necklace I bought there.  A 1950’s European accessory in an unusual color, it features beads cleverly made of Lucite; they look like glass but weigh almost nothing.

Admiring it, colleague Carolyn discerned its most salient attribute.  She observed that antiques markets and their wares “take you back in time.”  Who doesn’t occasionally speculate how your particular personality or capabilities might have fared in another epoch?

Like the Arts & Crafts table or 1880s trunk in my house, stories imagined in different periods offer the best of both worlds:  connecting to an adventurous past or even future with one foot planted in the age of central heating and Skype.   We aren’t the first culture to appreciate the empowering aura bestowed by artifacts or experiences from an alternate lifetime.

Time spiralI’m not particularly drawn to science fiction, but, like so many others, I still crave time travel accounts.  Authors who first come to mind—H.G. Wells, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Eric Flint, Harry Turtledove—don’t have a lock on that theme, and neither does the science fiction genre.

Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol features time travel.  Romance fans have flocked to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and the first two volumes of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy.   (I wish their publishers would discover a production-enhancing time warp and get the books out faster.)  Beatriz Williams’ recent Overseas would also appeal to this audience.

Scanning the internet, you’ll see certain titles earning frequent mentions:  Octavia Butler’s Kindred; Daphne du Maurier’s The House on the Strand; Selden Edward’s The Little Book  and The Lost Prince; Jack Finney’s Time and Again and From Time to Time; Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth  and Sepulchre; Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog; H.G. Wells’ The Chronic Argonauts (published before The Time Machine); Michael Crichton’s Timeline;  Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-five.

Those who’ve enjoyed modern film/TV hits like Doctor Who, Groundhog Day, or Field of Dreams (from W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe) should check out Eight Best Time-Travel Flicks  for a more intense focus on that element.  Public libraries—Hennepin County; Douglas County; Multnomah County—suggest some wonderful reads in the perfect quantity:  more than a couple, fewer than Goodreads.

In Round Rock Public Library’s catalog, you can input “time travel fiction” for Subject and select “Books”, “Video—DVD”, etc.  for Type of Material to discover many titles, including new ones like Katie MacAlister’s aptly title Steamed: A Steampunk Romance and Jason Heller’s Taft 2012.  Some excellent titles might not strictly qualify as time travel but come close with “split stories” paralleling two eras:  I heartily recommend Amy Sackville’s The Still Point and Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin.

I wonder if H.G. Wells would approve of my latest time-bending maneuver:  DVR’ing Downton Abbey, then re-viewing to see if, this round, Sir Anthony would behave differently and not break Edith’s heart (and mine).


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