Saturday, January 19, 2013
Charles Bernstein handed these out in class one day, as I recall. He often had stacks of books from one publisher or another stacked on the window sills in his office/classroom in Clemens Hall. On occasion, he would hand them out as we entered class. My recollection is that they rarely had anything to do with the reading list proper for his classes. They just happened be taking up space he needed to reclaim.
Well, we're getting very close to the end. Two more books, and still I have no idea where to go with this after we get to 'A'. I met writer Joan Richardson the other night. We got to talking about my blog, memory palaces, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, et al. She told me about a project she is working on that resonates with this one. For years she's been collecting quotes and citations and documents and putting them into folders, a kind of memory palace.
A few years ago she stumbled on the index to Jonathan Edwards' Images, Shadows of Divine Things, which she has used partly as the organizing principle to collage these collections together into what she calls a "secular, spiritual autobiography." It also echoes Benjamin's Arcades Project. I'll be very excited to see how that project turns out.
As I've been trying to distill my thoughts about this project, it seems that one of the questions I have been asking myself is about how I store my memories. I think it is often assumed that we passively receive experience and that the things which have the most profound emotional affect on us as well as those things which repeat, tend to be the ones we remember.
Or, at least, those are things we can most easily call to mind when reflecting on the past.
But there is a whole lot of other information being stored, repressed, hidden away, forgotten, that doesn't disappear simply because we can't actively recall it. I have been finding that as this stuff comes up it feels very powerful and palpable, yet at the same time when I write about it I get the feeling that I am constructing something, making a collage from fragments that may or may not have any real connection.
Memory feels both true and false in this way. False in that a hypothetical video taken of the moment I am trying to recall would likely contradict most of the facts as I recall them. True insofar as the construction resembles some idea I have of this thing called the self and how it connects to the past, this connection being time, which both obstructs and connects it to itself, providing a continuity that can just as easily dissolve into fragments as form a coherent whole.