Thursday, May 18, 2006

What is it about memory that makes intrigues writers? Proust, Kerouac, Eco and a list of others write about memories. Proust and Kerouac wrote about their youths as they remembered them. Or more correctly, as they wanted to remember them. Can Proust really remember exactly how he felt when he visited Combray or can Kerouac really remember what he saw from his crib? I don't think they actually want us to think they could. It's their relation to their memory that has made them search for themselves in art as a way to explain themselves or those around them. Eco plays with the concept of memory in a more problematic way. For the first part of The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana he questions the derivatives of memory and what memory is. If we don't remember something, but we're told a story that relayed what happened, does that constitute a memory? Is memory only something that we think we remember or is it anything in our past? Did it have to happen to be a memory? Or can we think it happened? Then in the second part of the novel, Eco begins to remember his childhood perfectly. Only problem is that it isn't necessarily in order. And I agree with this because I don't believe we can reach into our minds and pull out experiences without dragging out various other experiences that related to one another. Chaos with no order as Saramago would say.

I think writers deal with memory because it's a topic that has no definitive answer. I certainly wouldn't read a writer that was simply spewing facts at me. I like reading something that makes me think, especially about the world and myself. And as an amateur writer, I would never want to write about something I'm certain about. I write because it's the investigation that interests me. Writers are supposed to be inquisitive and relay their findings, no matter how vague, to us. At least that's how I see it. I guess that's why I don't care much for books that have tied-up endings. Life isn't that way and neither should my art. I think.

5 comments:

Stefanie said...

I am fascinated by memory too--it's so fickle, the things we remember the the things we don't and the way we remember them. My sister and I will talk about things that happened when we were kids and sometimes we have completely different memories of what happened.

M. Barresi said...

Memory has such a hold on all of us. Whether we have a good memory and can remember small details of our lives or if we have terrible memories and can't remember anything, it affects us in tremendous ways and I think shapes our lives significantly.

Dorothy W. said...

I think part of what interests writers about memory is that it is basically turning the past into a story -- giving it shape and coherence, like storytellers do. Also, what is a person's identity, really, but memory? And if a book explores personal identity, it explores memory.

M. Barresi said...

I agree Dorothy, but why do writers have to turn the past into a story? Why don't they create a story? I'm not saying I want them to, considering the writers I enjoy, their writing is certainly autobiographical, but there are some writers that don't use their personal past as storyline.

Dorothy W. said...

Yeah, that's true -- they don't necessarily work with the past. I guess I think there's a parallel between the way memory takes the past and turns it into a story, and the way a writer takes raw materials and shapes them into a story -- whether those raw materials come from the past or are invented. They are both about giving shape to things.