Monday, February 09, 2004

The Vagaries of Memory

I am looking through the list of books (yes, lists again! I told you I am a list person. Convert or get used to it.) I read way back in 1995 (54 that year!) and I find myself astonished. Not astonished by how many books I read, but by what I read. Why is it that I remember reading The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper (a fabulous book and a fabulous writer) but I don't remember What They Did to Princess Paragon by Robert Rodi? Even after reading an online description of the book I only have a vague recollection, a little tickle that this might have been something I read. Why is it I remember reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (another excellent author and an amazing book), but until I looked at this list I would have sworn on a bar of chocolate that I had never in my life read anything by Patricia A. McKillip. But there on the list is her book Something Rich and Strange. And why can I remember laughing hysterically at Rita Mae Brown's Bingo but perpetually have Petra K. Kelly's book Thinking Green! on my got to get around to reading sometime list because I didn't think I'd read it? What is it about a book that makes you remember it or forget it? I'd like to say I only forget about the bad books but if that's the case why do I remember reading The Bridges of Madison County? It seems like books that I had a strong reaction to, positive or negative, are ones I remember more often. But not always. Memory is a fascinating thing and some day I hope to write a novel about memory--if I can remember. Something I do remember is a review about a new book from Graywolf Press that I read on The Nation's website today while I was at work (I was on a break!). The review is by Megan Marz about a book called What Narcissism Means To Me by Tony Hoagland. To my surprise it is a poetry book. They don't review poetry much at The Nation. It is a book that I am going to have to buy because I couldn't resist this excerpt:

...what Marx said near the end of his life: "I was listening to the cries of the past, When I should have been listening to the cries of the future." But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable TV Or what kind of nightmare it might be When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you And you are floating in your pleasure boat upon this river Even while others are drowning underneath you And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters And yet it seems to be your own hand Which turns the volume higher?
It took my breath away. I know there are lots of poetry-phobic people (a topic for another time) out there, but you have to admit, this guy is good.