Friday, 20 July 2012


From the top floor of the county hospital in February, 1933, when Jack Havig is born, Dr Robert Anderson sees to his right the small upper-midwestern town of Senlac (a fictional name invented by Poul Anderson for his novel based on the deceased Robert's notes, clippings and photographs and on remembered conversations). The town was:

"...clustered along a frozen river, red brick at the middle, frame houses on tree-lined streets, grain elevator and water tank rearing ghostly in the dawnlight near the railway station." (There Will Be Time, New York, 1973, p. 9)

Ahead and to the left are hills, woodlets, fences, farms and Morgan Woods. Like Clark Kent and an earlier "superman," Philip Wylie's Hugo Danner, the time traveler Jack Havig grows up in a small American town, a "small ville." In fact, there is an explicit reference to Clark Kent. On a page that I will find when rereading, Havig remarks that a cubicle in a public toilet is a more discrete place than Clark Kent's telephone booth for a time traveler to disappear in.

I also intend to scour the book for data on Senlac, yet another of Anderson's imaginatively detailed fictitious locations. The Foreword has already told us that Robert's father, a journalist, became editor of the local newspaper in 1910. These Andersons were Episcopalian and Democratic. Looking ahead, I am reminded that there is a Senlac Arms which, by 1969, will have been razed and another hotel built on the site. Most details are forgotten when reading a novel whereas studying the text means retaining many of these details and also enhances appreciation of the author's creativity.

No comments: