Monday, December 14, 2009

Aimless Reading: One Year In

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
The Aimless Reading Project began a year ago today. Its impetus was combination of boredom and the feeling of needing something to write about on a regular basis for my blog. Having at the time just re-shelved my books, which had been in boxes for a over a year, I was happy to see them all again and thought it might be a nice way to get reacquainted. I think when I began, my intention was simply to catalog the books with a brief entry on each, but I very quickly discovered that each book evoked its own set of unique memories and so felt compelled to write see and say what I found along the way.

My enthusiasm for the project waxes and wanes, depending on which books I am writing about, various external factors, etc., but I feel like it has so far been valuable for me to catalog these memories, if for no other reason than to have them written down.

On the other hand, I have also become acutely aware of how much of what I remember is manufactured in the re-telling. I was reading an article the other day about just this phenomenon. A group of people were asked in the days following the Challenger explosion to recall where they were and what they were doing at the time of the event. Their answers were recorded and then the same group of people were asked the same set of questions a year later. Not only were all of their answers completely different, but all of the respondents insisted that their second answers more accurately represented the events than the ones from a year earlier.

I have noticed that same phenomenon often in the writing of these entries. I begin to tell a story I recall and then realize as I am telling it that it is, to some degree, a fabrication, or rather, a work in progress. Memories seem to me now to be forever in flux, accumulating and/or losing significance as time passes. The re-telling of each one likely serves some purpose or need I have in the present and is not only colored, but shaped (narratively) to meet that need.

There is also the question of audience. The performance of these memories is shaped by the fact that I expect them to be read by others. I have tried to be as honest as I can in each one, but I sometimes fail in that regard for fear of how what is said might be perceived. It is when I have been most honest, however, that I receive the most interesting responses, so I try to keep it so.

Looking back to December 14, 2008, I am shocked to discover that I wrote 8 entries on the first day. My output has slowed to about 1 per day, which I think is pretty good. I'd hate for this to end too quickly. We just began the F's, and have covered about twenty percent of my books (397 to date), which means I should be doing this for another 3-4 years. Hopefully everyone will stick around!

Anyhow, thanks to all for riding on the Pearlblossom Highway.


rdeming said...

Count me in!

tyrone said...

my interest waxes and wanes too, but that's the thing that makes this process so fascinating--it is literally a retelling of your perception of your life...

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

R and T -- thanks for hanging around. It heartens me when I see the daily hit counter register a visit from New Haven or Cincinnati or one of a few other towns in which I know I have a daily reader.