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Duplex
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October Weird Book Club: Time in Duplex

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Read Weird (readweird) | 6 comments Mod
One of the aspects we found most fascinating -- and challenging -- about Kathryn Davis's Duplex was the way time works in this book. How do the different timelines in this novel interact? When does the present moment with Janice and the girls occur, relative to the sections about Mary and Eddie? Does this take place in the timeline of our real world, and if so, how??? If not, how do you make sense of the timeline of this world?

Post your thoughts about time and chronology of Duplex here!


Lindsay | 18 comments As I was reading Duplex, I sort of positioned myself and our "real" timeline as taking place in the novel's deep past and also present, which is sort of confusing now that I think about it. In some ways, it seemed like our "real" timeline maybe occupies Mary and Eddie's deep past, as in our world exists in the time before the scows in the sky, before the robots move in, before the Rain of Beads and the Descent of the Aquanauts, etc. Fabulous lines like "Smoking must have been fun," which Mary says to Eddie during their prom dinner, tell us that this is a world so far in the future that smoking is a completely impermissible act.

And yet at the same time, Janice and the girls occupy a timeline that seems to be our very near past, taking place perhaps in the reader's childhood, or perhaps the reader's parents' childhood, when children were left to their own devices and under the care of a somewhat acceptable guardian.

Short answer: Duplex both does and does not take place in the timeline of our real world, and my head's about to explode


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Carlea | 20 comments I don't even know where to begin with time in this book! There are moments where it seems like the three timelines (the mythic era of the Rain of Beads, the neighborhood history era of Miss Vicks and Mary, and the present moment of Janice and the girls) are very close together in time, separated by only a few generations at most, and then others when they seem to be separated by decades if not centuries. In some way, some of this is alleviated by Janice's storytelling. That is, because we can choose to believe that Janice is just inventing this information (or at least embellishing it) for her stories, we don't have to reconcile their relationship to one another perfectly, because they exist as expressive narratives, not factual chronologies. But I'm not in love with that interpretation, because I never really want to dismiss something as just a dream or just an unreliable narrator -- those things are on the page together, and so in some respect they *have* to be real for the purposes of the story, even if it's only in terms of what effect they have on the reader. (That is, if you read a short story in which a dog is hit by a car, vs a story in which someone *dreams* a dog is hit by a car, that action -- the dog being hit by the car -- has the same impact on the reader because in both cases it's on the page, even though one is imagined and one is real within the context of the story.) In any case, what I'm trying to get at is that in some respects, it doesn't quite matter how we reconcile these three timelines in a facts-based way, because they're each present and working on us as readers, coloring our perceptions of the world Davis is creating.


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Carlea | 20 comments Lindsay wrote: "As I was reading Duplex, I sort of positioned myself and our "real" timeline as taking place in the novel's deep past and also present, which is sort of confusing now that I think about it. In some..."

Lindsay, I had this same challenge. I think it would be very easy to see this is a far-future novel, where a cataclysmic flood and a robot revolution separate our time and the time of the novel, but a lot of details (like the My Little Ponies and the Suzuki Method piano lessons) seem to complicate this for me. Am I meant to believe that My Little Ponies have preserved their cultural capital for a couple thousands years?

My conclusion was similar to yours -- this is a timeline like ours but not, a slightly (or, well, more than slightly) parallel universe that shares many of the qualities of our world but also has many differences, so that trying to reconcile our world and the one Janice and Miss Vicks and the others live in is maybe futile?


Lindsay | 18 comments Carlea wrote: "trying to reconcile our world and the one Janice and Miss Vicks and the others live in is maybe futile? "

I completely agree with this. Ultimately, I don't believe that reconciliation to be essential to the story at all, but it is something that my brain was sort of subconsciously doing. I think of it as a form of calibration, or positioning. Even though we can't find a timeline like this in the "real" world, it's still sort of fun to position ourselves in relation to the world.

Also, I find it hilarious to imagine that My Little Ponies have survived into some deep future parallel universe.


Lindsay | 18 comments Carlea wrote: "I don't even know where to begin with time in this book! There are moments where it seems like the three timelines (the mythic era of the Rain of Beads, the neighborhood history era of Miss Vicks a..."

Reading this story as one of eras seems so, so apt to me. Considering each portion of the story as belonging to a certain time feels like it adds weight to the way we talk about this book, weight I think the book deserves. Weight in the sense that Eras and History are Important Words, and that's true of how our own reality constructs meaning and also how Duplex does as well, particularly in the Janice sections. Janice knows the Importance of History


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Carlea | 20 comments Lindsay wrote: "Carlea wrote: "trying to reconcile our world and the one Janice and Miss Vicks and the others live in is maybe futile? "

I completely agree with this. Ultimately, I don't believe that reconciliati..."


YES! I do it, too, can't help doing it, because it seems like a very human impulse to try to make the irregular pieces form a pattern.


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Carlea | 20 comments Lindsay wrote: "Carlea wrote: "I don't even know where to begin with time in this book! There are moments where it seems like the three timelines (the mythic era of the Rain of Beads, the neighborhood history era ..."

Yeah, I think Janice *definitely* knows what she's doing! But, also, as she says, it's the part BEFORE history that's really interesting, and I think she's very aware of that, too, as she's telling these stories. She's not just relating myths, I think. In a way, she's making them.


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