20 September 2010

You're reading my memory

Novelist James Collins wrote about reading, memory, and thinking about reading in yesterday's New York Times. It reminded me of several of the reasons I began writing little bits about the the things I read. One of the reasons was to reflect on what I read. The other reason for writing an actual newsletter for 20 years and this blog for the last four is that this is my memory cache.

Collins' essay is well worth the 3 minutes it takes to read it.

PS: I've completely forgotten the plot of one of the last two books I read. My blog entry about it is in rough draft and will show up here soon — without a plot summary. In the meantime, I have to check the TV schedule to see if there's a golf match broadcast today.

The Plot Escapes Me
I have just realized something terrible about myself: I don’t remember the books I read… These are books I loved, but... all I associate with them is an atmosphere and a stray image or two, like memories of trips I took as a child.

Nor do I think I am the only one with this problem. Certainly, there are those who can read a book once and retain everything that was in it, but anecdotal evidence suggests that is not the case with most people. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most people cannot recall the title or author or even the existence of a book they read a month ago, much less its contents.

So we in the forgetful majority must, I think, confront the following question: Why read books if we can’t remember what’s in them?…

Now, with a terrible sense of foreboding, I slowly turn to look again at my bookshelf… And I have to ask myself, Would it have made no difference if I had never read any of them? Could I just as well have spent my time watching golf?…

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