Time Travelling from the Colony

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Paul Whybrow

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Jun 20, 2015
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Cornwall, UK
Imagine you were able to time travel to meet one of your favourite authors in action. Where would you go and in what era would you alight to observe them compose which book?

Would you go back only a few years, to the mid-1990s, sitting at an Edinburgh cafe table next to J.K. Rowling as she wrote her first Harry Potter novel?

What about becoming a flaneur in Paris between the wars, an era when the French capital reestablished itself as the centre of the arts, including writing. Rubbing shoulders with Ernest Hemingway, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Vladamir Nabokov and George Orwell, you’d be spoilt for choice in whom to be inspired by.

Perhaps you’d prefer a quieter existence, sharing Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond. Or, you could journey to the Hippy era in the 1960s to commune with Joseph Heller, Ken Kesey, Donald Barthelme, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, Richard Brautigan, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Truman Capote.

What about hanging out with Charles Dickens or William Shakespeare or John Milton? Could you persuade Emily Dickinson to come out to play?

I’m off to Paris in the late 19th-century to have a chat with my favourite short story writer Guy de Maupassant.

Now, where did I put my beret?

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Diane Setterfield - Wikipedia
 
The Bloomsbury set would probably have been fun to hang out with!

But if time-travelling to past authors is your thing, you should probably read one of Tim Powers' early hybrid works:

Screenshot 2019-11-18 at 15.39.13.png

This Good Reads review is pretty fair, in my view:

Tim Powers is at his best with wacked-out time travel stories, and that's precisely what this is. He basically took the entire collection of English-language literary devices and tossed them into one book. And then added some poetry. And some genderfuckery. And Ancient Egyptian myths and legends. And, also, did I mention the time travel?

So. A mild-mannered literature professor (this is, um, something of a theme character in Powers' work) goes back to the time of Lord Byron, and - look. Things happen. I'm not going to spoil it. Suffice to say that this is the kind of book time travel fans read with joy and sorrow - joy because oh my god, so awesome, and sorrow because sooner or later the joy will be over.

The book isn't without flaws - Powers was still a fairly unseasoned writer when he produced this, and it shows. But, seriously, whenever I re-read this, I'm having too much fun to care.
 
The Bloomsbury set would probably have been fun to hang out with!

But if time-travelling to past authors is your thing, you should probably read one of Tim Powers' early hybrid works:

View attachment 4597

This Good Reads review is pretty fair, in my view:

Tim Powers is at his best with wacked-out time travel stories, and that's precisely what this is. He basically took the entire collection of English-language literary devices and tossed them into one book. And then added some poetry. And some genderfuckery. And Ancient Egyptian myths and legends. And, also, did I mention the time travel?

So. A mild-mannered literature professor (this is, um, something of a theme character in Powers' work) goes back to the time of Lord Byron, and - look. Things happen. I'm not going to spoil it. Suffice to say that this is the kind of book time travel fans read with joy and sorrow - joy because oh my god, so awesome, and sorrow because sooner or later the joy will be over.

The book isn't without flaws - Powers was still a fairly unseasoned writer when he produced this, and it shows. But, seriously, whenever I re-read this, I'm having too much fun to care.

Love this book - so much fun and a really wacky read, which completely upended my expectations.
 
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