Review Hazards of time travel – Joyce Carol Oates
I’ve been a fan of Joyce Carol Oates for years, but ‘Hazards of time travel’ may be my very favorite so far. After the horror of 9/11 the world has changed rapidly. New rules apply, to make it very easy for everyone to understand. You do as you’re told or you will be eliminated or teletransported to another place and time to undergo educational brainwashing.
With a wink to ‘brave new world’ the author describes a new world where the United States are now the Northern States of America. They include Mexico and Canada. And finally Alaska is where it belongs, joined with the States. The president of these Northern States is democratically chosen by way of money. As is the case in our time, the one with most money and assets wins. No need for expensive campaigns anymore, where we all know the outcome: the more money, the more your chances of winning.
Adriane is a 17 year old who did very well in high school. Too well, ’cause now she stands out, and Nobody wants to stand out. She’s chosen to be valedictorian. In her speech she, innocently, questions her history (our history) of whatever happened before 9/11. She cannot even finish her speech when she’s taken by police and without saying goodbye to her family and friends she’s banned from her world and teletransported to a college in 1959. She gets a new name: ‘Mary Ellen’ and must forget all about her old life.
With a list of everything she must and especially must never do, she feels very lonely in her new environment. Although her roommates are friendly and want to help her fit in, she doesn’t trust anyone. Besides, she has this list of which she needs to take care. Of all the things she must never ever do is to try and get attention. She walks around campus like a shadow. The only time she feels a bit better is when she attends psychology class 101.
She feels very drawn to her professor Ira Wolfman. In fact, she can’t help but fall in love with him. Something forbidden according to the list. And her professor seems to avoid her at all cost. Until one day he all of a sudden asks her to follow him to a hidden place where, according to him, nobody will be able to hear or see them. He confides in her he is banned as well and only has to be there for another two years before assessment. He doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his chances of going back home, so he urges her to be very careful.
Still they can’t help being comforted by each other. Ira Wolfman is wise enough not to get into a sexual relationship with ‘Mary Ellen’. The more they talk about their old lives, the more homesick they become. Will they get up the courage to elope? Could it be, this time travel does not exist and Mary Ellen is hypnotized? Or maybe this is just one long dream, is she living separate lives in different dimensions? As the exceptional author she is, Joyce Carol Oates will not really tell us how this story evolves, but we may guess. And it’s up to every individual how you think this story may end.
Joyce Carol Oates
Born in New York, USA, in 1938, the author has written more than 60 books. She won many prizes, except for one very prestigious one: The nobel prize for literature. She has my vote! Her extensive research and studies into the identity of humankind, her intelligence and fantasy, and her beautiful writing makes it more than worthwhile to read this book.