Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, January 18, 2010

speak, memory

Evan Maloney writes thoughtfully about how inconsistent our memories of books can be. "Are our memories of books determined by how much we enjoy them? Not for me. I read Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late in the mid-90s. I thought it was fantastic, and I never thought of it again until someone mentioned it last year. Conversely, in 2002 I read John Irving's A Widow for One Year, and I thought very little of it, and yet I often remember the little I thought." This is true for me as well: I can't discover any pattern that would account for what I remember and what I forget.
Maloney concludes by saying "Nobody can fully understand or explain the relationship between reading and memory. And that's a wonderful thing, because the mystery of how we remember a book is something that leads us deep inside the magic of storytelling." Well, if you say so. For me it's more a testimony to the frustrating unreliability and irregularity of memory.


  • An Autobiography Revisited, a careful and uncompromising reworking of its 1951 incarnation, is widely embraced as one of the best memoirs of the twentieth century. Nabokov, highly praised for his English and Russian language stories, novels, and poetry, proves his skill and talent as a creative nonfiction writer with this work. In it, he achieves two major feats. First, the evocation of Nabokov’s happy childhood in a liberal aristocratic family during the last years of the Russian czar is made poignant by contrasting this childhood with his subsequent exile and the assassination of his father. Second, aesthetically, words, images, and memories take the writer and his readers on magical little voyages that transcend the limitations of ordinary time and its daily burdens.

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