Sunday, May 14, 2006

"I did not read everything word for word. Some books and magazines I skimmed as though I were flying over a landscape, and as I did I was aware of already knowing what was written in them. As though a single word could summon back a thousand others, or could blossom into a full-bodied summary, likethose Japanese flowers that open in water. As though something were striking out on its own to settle in my memory, to keep Oedipus and Don Quixote company. At times the short circuit was caused by drawing, three thousand words for one picture. At times I would read slowly, savoring a phrase, a passage, a chapter, experiencing perhaps the same emotions sparked by my first, forgotten reading."

Waiting for the coffee to finish percolating, I keep going back to Eco's perception of rereading his life. In an attempt to regain is memory, Eco's narrator, Yambo, retreats to his family home and spends hours sweating in the attic or in his grandfather's old study, refamiliarizing himself, with, well, himself. Would you want to reread all the books of you childhood? I know many of the ones that I remember are part of popular culture and I've reread them many times since my first experience with them, but I'm not thinking about Curious George or Dr. Seuss. More like Robert Louis Stevenson or Jules Verne, as Eco writes about. The problem with my childhood, is that the books of my youth are nothing on par with Eco or most others. Since I didn't start reading or appreciating stories until the seventh grade, when I was a little bit older, my memories of Matt Christopher sports novels. I know many readers still remember the books their parents read them or they read to themselves on their top bunk at night. My only other frame of referene is the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I seemingly read every mystery, but lack the memory of particular episodes.

In Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana,as Yambo discovers a memory brought out by a particular book, I feel like I'm remembering something as well. It's impossible, I know. But it's a mysterious and wonderful feeling to have a memory of something you didn't experience. As Yambo plays pulls out his notebooks from his grammar school days during World War II, I'm rummaging through the attic of my youth, spreading out my life for the first time...again. I had never heard of Le Avventure di Ciuffettino...The Adventures of Ciuffettino. A boy who had "an immense quiff that gave him a curious appearence, causing him to resemble a feather duster. And do you know, he was fond of his quiff!

I never had a Ciuffettino, but because of Eco, I now hold part of him and will only hope to get more.

Now reading:
Eco The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
W.G. Sebald After Nature

Listening to:
Billie Holiday Lady in Satin

9 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

I like how the experiences of one's life blend with the experiences one reads about -- reading something can be so intense that one's sense of "reality" gets blurred.

Stefanie said...

"Eco's perception of rereading his life" I like that. I would not want to reread the books from my childhood. I have fond memories of so many of them that I'd be afraid that in the rereading I would find myself wondering why I was so enchanted by the book in the first place.

Diana said...

You know what I really regret? While I was a voracious reader as a child, I can't remember what all I read. I know I read a lot of Nancy Drew. And I remember loving Harriet the Spy. And the Little House books. Other than that, I don't know. So I can't reread the books of my childhood if I wanted to. Sometimes I think I should spend some serious time perusing the children's section at the library. I've done this with my own children, of course, but we've always hurried past the old-fashioned book, which is where my childhood reads would be!

M. Barresi said...

Dorothy - Yambo's wife, Paoloa, is scared of this exact point. She's concerned that Yambo will begin to believe that what he remembers actually happened to him, when in reality it was in a novel.

Stefanie- I'm not a serious rereader for the same reason. I don't want to lose the allure of my initial experience. Why chop something down just because we can?

Diana- that's one thing I look forward to...watching the expression on my (non-existent) child's face as they read a book I loved or even better, find a book of their own that they love.

Diana said...

You know, I always envisioned that scene, too, where my kids loved the things I loved at their age. I can't think of a time that has actually happened. You know what they think about those beautiful, epic Disney movies, the classics? "Gosh, animation today is so much better, what with computers and all." My daughter will read a few of the books that I remember having read, but she's polite about it. They seem old-fashioned to her. (To be fair, many of them were old-fashioned when I read them, too.)

Now that you've caused me to think about it, my favorite shared references have been the ones from their own generation. For movies, nothing beats Toy Story. And Harry Potter has really been fun.

Interesting. Nothing's stagnant, eh?

Jen said...

A little off topic (I apologize for that), however - that is a great CD! Excellent choice!

M. Barresi said...

Jen, it's one of the best albums I own. (but who really owns jazz?) The extra takes on the end of the album are gut wrenching.

Jen said...

Who really owns jazz?...how true is that!

Jackie said...

Great read. I've been searching for the Ciuffettino comic all over the internet. Have you been able to find and read it or any of Yambo's work?