Monday, April 19, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 8.1 (Nada Gordon)

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Gordon, Nada

Sorry for the hiatus -- I had a long work weekend that also included entertaining my mother for three days, so I didn't have much time to sit down and write. This book was given to me by Gary Sullivan at the same time he gave me the book mentioned in the previous post.

Nada commented on the last post to remind me that we also went on the Entropy Tour and bought maple candy during their visit. One of the things I wish would happen more often on this blog is that people would add their own memories of specific events to the ones that I post here. It happens now and again, but I think it really enhances the experience to see it from different vantages.

I have become acutely aware in the writing of this blog of just how subjective, selective and constructed memories are. What I remember about a particular event (or how I reconstruct a particular set of circumstances) is just that -- what I remember, not what someone else does.

For instance, I believe Nada when she says I took them on the Entropy Tour of Buffalo. I say 'believe' because it is highly likely that I would have taken two visiting poets, especially a pair with such a pronounced sense of ironic humor, on such a tour. I have done so many times. However, as I search my mind for impressions of that particular iteration of said tour, I come up blank. I have no reason not to believe Nada when she tells me we took the Entropy Tour -- how could she know of such an eccentric concept without having talked to me about it in the first place?

Likewise, I remember going to the kitschy candy store with Gary and Nada, and I know for a fact that they sell maple candy there, but I don't actually recall their purchase of that candy. However, as I write this, a vague impression swells in my mind that may or may not include maple candy. Is this me creating or re-creating a memory of an actual event? Is it me remembering? Or am I making something up in order to share in Nada's memory of the event? What's the difference?

I opened the q & a with Salman Rushdie the other night with a quote from Midnight's Children which I think gets at this idea very succinctly:

Memory's truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own.

Why does Nada's memory select the maple candy while mine selects the toy parachutist dangling from the branches of a tree? I don't think you can draw conclusions about someone's character solely based on the unconscious selections their memory makes, but you can get a glimpse of something by looking at those choices.

One of the more interesting films on memory that I have ever seen was Kore-eda's film, After Life. The characters have all died, and they await their transition into the afterlife at a sort of weigh station. During this interregnum, they are given the opportunity to watch footage of their entire lives and each is charged with selecting a single memory to carry with them into death. Once they have selected a memory, they are given a film crew to help them reconstruct that memory. Thus, the memory they carry with them is actually a reconstruction of a reconstruction of an event from their lives.

I think Kore-eda is really onto something about the nature of memory there. What is precious about what we remember is the fact of our having remembered it at all; the fact that we do remember something suggests that what we remember is actually a fabrication, or perhaps more to the point, a fabulation. Even a bad memory sticks around only to be rehearsed and repeated until it makes a kind of sense to the body that experienced it, which can then release some of the trauma into the ether.

from Folly

Finches practices songs in their sleep.
A shrimp's heart is in its head.
A blind chameleon can still change colors to match its environment.
Slugs have four noses.
In the Caribbean there are oysters that can climb trees.
Cats can hear in ultrasound.
Goat's eyes have rectangular pupils.
A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.

No comments: