Every Anxious Word…Has Meaning When Time Becomes Your Road

This post come from our inventory manager Jan. 

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If you could travel back in time, what would you do? What would you change?

It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to read a conversational icebreaker expanded in a 273 page novel. The question discloses character. If you’re Hermione Granger, for example, you use time travel to attend extra classes and study sessions. If you’re Sam Beckett, your sense of justice leads you to correct inequalities in the lives of everyday people who don’t hold significant places in history. If you inhabit the world in Mo Daviau’s debut novel Every Anxious Wave, you and your friends attend benchmark rock concerts of the past. When former guitar player and current bar owner Karl Bender literally falls into a wormhole, he and his friend Wayne start a side business selling tickets to shows of yesteryear. But when Wayne accidentally gets chonomarooned in the year 980, Karl hires down-on-her luck astrophysicist Lena Geduldig.

Karl and Lena take a few trips down memory timestream by attending the shows of their favorite bands and performers.  As they break every time travel rule, they get figuratively deeper in over their heads. They discover that nostalgia isn’t just the “thing”–the song, the show, the performer– it’s the association. They haunt the past pains and humiliations that have haunted them. If time heals all wounds, what happens when time changes meaning? Answer: healing has to become an activity. Wayne stays in 980 because he travels at a moment in his life when he needs to be active and to be valued for his actions (who can’t relate to that?)

Daviau pays homage to indie rock, but also lampoons the inherent self-absorption and obscurity of the genre. While she doesn’t skimp on the science, she does rib the “ethics” of time travel–the very act of creating arbitrary rules for a brand new activity that an incompetent discovered by accident. The apocalypse appears–as is expected in any time travel story worth its salt–but Daviau avoids doom-filled cliché. All too often, apocalypse narratives assume their characters lead idyllic or uneventful lives before their cataclysm–as if the sum of their entire lives have no effect on how they face the apocalyptic event or how they act afterwards. For Daviau’s characters, the tragic event worth time travel correction isn’t the upcoming disaster; it is what happens on an unassuming, though life-changing night–an indemnification which involves, of course, revisiting a rock show. The apocalyptic event itself appears as simply a landmark Karl and Lena use to finish out their love story.

Daviau invites the reader to inhabit her book, not as one inhabits the rooms of a house, but how one inhabits a familiar street: where you know which neighbors to avoid, which backyards and empty lots you can visit barefoot, the grocer on the corner who carries the only coffee you’ll ever drink. Travel and occupancy are two sides of the same coin.

Due to all the obscure references, weird science, and nuanced meanings, the re-readability factor for Wave is high. Wave is probably the nerdiest book I’ve ever read, but for cool nerds who know more than I ever will about art (but not necessarily about life). Daviau, and I, indulge.

(Because this book revels in obscure 90s pop culture, I make no apologies for my Quantum Leap reference.)

Join Jan and Demi at the  New & Noteworthy book club this Thursday at 7pm at BookPeople as we discuss Mo Daviau’s debut novel, Every Anxious Wave.

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