Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

A couple of episodes in the past year suggested I ought to give H.G. Wells, who I had not read one word of (of whom I had not read one word? of which I had not read one word?), a shot. And while what I wanted to read was Invisible Man, what I had on hand was The Time Machine, so that's what I read. The writing was a lot stronger than I expected--a really well-rendered voice--and now at least I know who Weena, the Morlocks and the Eloi are (this should be good for my crossword skills). But what it actually made me think about is the genre of dinner-table-stories. I feel a lot of books I read in middle school were of this genre (though now I can't name any), where a strange character tells a strange tale to a gathering of dinner companions. And that's the frame of The Time Machine, which allows the story to have a nice added layer of did it or didn't it really happen. The novel is told to us by one of the dinner guests, but told to him by the time traveler himself, who disappears (sorry, spoiled the end) and thus can't tell the tale any longer. But really I just like the idea of reading a contemporary short story that's constructed with that frame. It feels old-fashioned but allows for any kind of story to be told in the middle. It'll be a long time before I get around to you should try it, whoever you are.

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