22 September 2010

Shaped by what we don't remember

It's that time of year again, for longing for distant things, the crunch of leaves under my feet, for waking up a little chilly in the morning and hoping for rain.

Torino, Italy

It's that time of year to be quiet and studious and read good books. In the last two weeks I've read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest and Writing Great Books for Young Adults, and I started The Dive from Clausen's Pier today. Staring now at my bookshelf and thinking over the books in my Kindle, I'm surprised that I can't remember what I read before that. The time before and after I read a Stieg Larsson is always changed and different, like I'm on an adrenaline rush, and now it looks like with the third book in the series finished, I'm done.

Inability to remember some of my even my favorite books and movies reminds me of this essay in The New York Times: The Plot Escapes Me. In it, James Collins consoles me through Professor Maryanne Wolf's assertion that we are the "sum" of what we've read, even if we can't remember everything (or anything) about it.

I wonder if it's some trick of the memory that we can devour a book and then forget the contents. A kind of amnesia with a unknown purpose? All that time spent a writer spends writing. Hours, maybe days and weeks spent reading, and then you might not even remember the name of the protagonist.

What do you think - do we store that information somewhere? Are we still shaped by what we don't remember?
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