Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#1: The Thirteen Clocks

I have to confess that my reading project has not gotten off to a rip-roaring start. It's March, and I've read one (count 'em, 1) book you love, and it was the shortest of the bunch. I've also read 8 or 9 books that are not books you love -though you might love some of them if you had the chance. Bad me! It's been a procrastinatory kind of year.

But I did get around to reading Jame's Thurber's short illustrated novel The Thirteen Clocks. I read it in one sitting, sick in bed, gobbling it up like the cupcake my stomach couldn't, at the time, stomach. The plot is simple: Once Upon a Time Thurber, a mid-century cartoonist, penned the playful parable of a princess, a prince, and the evil Duke who thought he could slay time.

The Duke's hands were always cold, necessitating the wearing of jewel-encrusted gloves. He lived in a shadowy castle with a dungeon, henchmen, and a beautiful princess. All thirteen clocks in the castle had stopped, and the Duke insisted that he had killed time, that the hours and minutes and seconds had trickled out like blood, staining the folds of his doublet. Thenceforth, everything in the castle stayed strictly status quo.

The Duke reminds me of me.

He gets his comeuppance, of course, as I daily receive mine in the form of that most fearsome and odious of monsters, change. Along the way there is wordplay, fable, love, mystery, and a whole lot of alliteration.

I can see why my friend S loves this book. She's probably loved it since she was a child, though in truth The Thirteen Clocks a wolf in sheep's clothing, an adult novel disguised as a children's book. It dawned on me halfway through that I'd actually read it before, sometime during my preteen years, and hated it. There were too many monsters, and too much darkness, and too much of a kind of archness I did not, as a child, have patience for. In short, it scared the wee out of me.

A couple of decades later, it still does.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Ah well. Thank you for trying it out!

I think what I love most about it is the language--alliteration, archness and all.
Also, I did in fact read it first when I was a child, but perhaps not as young as you might think. I'm pretty sure I was around 10 or 11, which probably was just about the right time for me to fall in love with the book's dark plot and overuse of the letter "z".

Thank you for reading it!