Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"O Call Back Yesterday, Bid Time Return"

Nothing like borrowing a quote from William Shakespeare (Richard II, Act III, Scene 2) as the title to this posting to draw-in the readers.  Richard Matheson used a portion of this quotation as the title of his science fiction romance classic, Bid Time Return (1975).  If you have read many of Matheson's science fiction or horror novels, you may be surprised to learn that he could knock-out a tear-jerking romance on the ol' typewriter.

What made Matheson's short stories, television screenplays, and novels so compelling was his ability to capture the ordinary person's reactions to extraordinary circumstances.  This held true in his romance novels, too.  As the central characters confront the unexpected and bizarre, they must come to grips with their emotional and intellectual upheaval challenging their preconceived world views, or, as sociologists term it, cognitive dissonance.

Bid Time Return was adapted to the silver screen under the title Somewhere in Time (1980, starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer, and Teresa Wright), and this title was used on subsequent editions of Matheson's book.  We have elected to use the original book title in our book trailer, because we like to remain true to the artist's original vision.  Plus we forgot to download a share-alike digital image of the newer covers.

It may seem like a strange plot device to have the narrator, Richard Collier, time travel from the 1970s to 1896 using his will power (or some hypnosis/mind thingee happening there), but the concept had been previously suggested in a psychological essay by J. B. Priestley (Man and Time, 1964), in which self-hypnosis was postulated as a means to effectuate the time transference.  Jack Finney used a nearly identical time travel method in his novel Time and Again (1970).  Matheson was obviously impressed by the concept and made the most of it to set-up the romantic interlude between his main characters, 1970s Collier and 1896 actress Elise McKenna.

The character of Elise McKenna was based directly upon real-life actress Maude Adams (1872-1953), whose portrait Matheson saw in Piper's Opera House in Virginia City, Nevada.  He was captivated by her beauty and emotional distance from the onlooker, as if she held a painful secret shielded from public scrutiny.  Matheson researched further and discovered that Adams was reclusive.  What had happened in her younger years to drive her from the limelight?  He could imagine someone falling in love with her saddened image.  This isn't as improbable as it sounds.  While living at a boarding school in the early 20th century, Edward Crake observed the visible ghost of Sarah Fletcher, who had lived there when it had been known as her home, Courtiers House (south of Oxford, England), where she committed suicide in 1799.  Crake fell in love with Fletcher (or, at least, her ghost) 114 years after her death, drawn to her personal unhappiness (caused by a bigamous husband) visible in her spectral visage.  How much more emotionally powerful would be a photographic impression.

I don't want to spoil the plot by delving beyond the book trailer, so suffice to say that if you are not moved by this novel, you have yourself joined the realm of earthbound shades, which are emotionless shells of one's spirit.  Plainly put, you'd have to have joined the choir invisible not to shed some tears (both happy and sad ones) while reading this book.  I'm not even human, and I cried a bit.  Scowl-Face produced bucketfuls.

(Yes, I'm lifting "the choir invisible" from the Parrot Sketch in Monty Python's Flying CircusI use only the best literary devices available.)

"There Are More Things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio,"* etc., etc.,

Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Readers' Advisory News Beat

(*  William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5)

P.S.  Like Richard Matheson?  Scowl-Face sure does.  Here are a couple of my Library's book trailers featuring two of his science fiction/horror classics.

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