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  • Writer's pictureCarol Wiebe

I Am MAD at Audrey Niffenegger

Before I made an art book of my own, I was only marginally aware of the vast world of hand made art books. Now I can’t stop investigating that world, and Audrey Niffenegger has had some significant success in it. Christopher Borrelli, of The Chicago Tribune tells us:

For 25 years, Niffenegger has had solo art shows at Printworks Gallery on Superior Street, with portraits of herself as Siamese twins, etchings of dead starlings pulled in funeral coaches by skeleton horses. She was discovered as an undergraduate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. For 13 years, she worked on 10 editions of an enormous book called “The Three Incestuous Sisters,” published by Abrams as a graphic novel, but in its original form contained 80 pages of text and 80 etchings, each of which she reproduced, then hand-painted. She sold all 10 books, for $10,000 each, to Harvard University and collectors.

Niffenegger’s art reveals a fascination with mortality, or what some have called morbidity. She also has a wonderful sense of the ridiculous and a wicked sense of humor. Audrey’s website FAQ points out that she prefers “quirky literary novels, speculative fiction, anything really odd.” I resonate with that, too.

I read The Time Traveler’s Wife when it first came out in 2004 and fell in love with the characters (don’t miss Audrey’s discussion about the book at that link). Often, I am disappointed in the movie versions of books, and while I admit that no movie based on a good book can hope to match it, I have viewed The Time Traveller’s Wife twice, and will happily watch it again, if you ask me. We can share a popcorn: large and buttered, of course.

Fantasy and science fiction have been prized genres for decades and I am especially drawn to novels where the “real world” and fantasy overlap. Magic Realism is the term most often used to describe such stories:

Magic realism is an artistic genre in which magical elements or illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or even “normal” setting. It has been widely used in relation to literature, art, and film.

I also have a knack for choosing first novels by women writers that I consider astonishing reads. The Time Traveller’s Wife is both magic realism and a first novel, not to mention an astonishing read that afforded me great pleasure. But I’ll let you form your own opinion about the book ~ I am not interested in writing a review. I have a bone to pick with Ms. Niffenegger, and since taxidermy is one of her interests, as well as all things skeletal, she should be game.

But here is the rub ~ that same FAQ I mentioned previously revealed the following question and answer:

Are you going to write a sequel to The Time Traveler’s Wife? Probably not. Sometimes it’s much better to leave something to the imagination. But it’s very kind of you all to ask.

Kind, shmind! I have asked the same question for years, and am thoroughly peeved with Audrey’s flippant answer. I can understand that she is done with Henry and Clare, but Alba, at the tender age of ten, is already a marvelous character.  I WANT TO EXPERIENCE MORE OF ALBA!  Can you hear me raging, Audrey? It is pure, unadulterated, literary cruelty to dispense with Alba so easily.

Instead of doing the right thing, Audrey spent six years completing the recently released Her Fearful Symmetry, for which Scribner paid her a $5 million advance (yes, you read that right). I caught a glimpse of this fact just the other day in my local paper and whooped “Good for her!” Of course, that was before I remembered I was mad at her. Maybe now that she is independently wealthy, Ms. Niffenegger will have the leisure time to reflect on her previous lapse in judgment concerning a sequel to The Time Traveller’s Wife.

On the other hand, she really doesn’t need to give a damn. The sequel may well be gone with the wind. And in case you think it’s the wind that you are hearing, that would be me, sighing.

But oh, Audrey, to create something people connect with, and seek to experience more of ~ now that is deeply satisfying.

#HerFearfulSymmetry #Henry #CarolWiebe #Clare #TheTimeTravelersWife #etchings #Artbooks #magicrealism #Alba #morbid #AudreyNiffenegger #ridiculous #handpaintedbooks

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