“I don’t remember exactly,” I say. “It was so long ago.”
January 5, 2015 6:32 PM   Subscribe

On Not Remembering.
For me, dwelling on the past has become a habit of mind. Even more than that, it’s become the material of my work. My drive to make art out of the miserable, the glorious, the confusing material of my past, seems deeply embedded in my creative DNA. If I were a different kind of writer, my past might become merely the trace elements underlying my fiction; if I were a different kind of writer, I could have the multiple “I”s of the lyric poet without being held to any one of them as the absolute autobiographical truth. Instead, I seem condemned to the limited material of my own past.
posted by homunculus (8 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I am not limited to the material of my past.

I might write based on my experience of things, but I can create original stories, characters, plots, subplots, items, technology, etc.
posted by Orion Blastar at 7:15 PM on January 5, 2015

"Here are rare photos of him with other patients on the sanitarium grounds.

When he is 15 years old, amidst the violence and poverty of the slums..."

"Virgil receives a cello as a gift."

From, 'Take the Money and Run.'
posted by clavdivs at 7:41 PM on January 5, 2015

Going back to visit family last month and some of the conversations that ensued made me realise how fickle and inconstant memory is. Things my brother remembers clearly are vague or vanished for me. Things that I can still feel, hear, blush with shame while I remember them bring no more than a puzzled look from him. Things that happened before I was born, remembered partly by him, partly by an aunt, wondering how they fit together. Is it really part of the same picture? The box top is lost.

I'm glad I don't remember everything, but sometimes I wish I remembered more.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:28 PM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Fascinating! Thanks for posting this, homunculus. I was just having a conversation with a friend about whether writing up life's events facilitates letting them go or whether doing so requires a person to spend a particularly long time replaying the film and, worse, to (at least eventually) hold that interpretation static so as to craft an essay conveying that interpretation.

But I particularly don't see how one could be in the moving-on camp as much as this guy. How can someone not be curious?
posted by salvia at 10:11 PM on January 5, 2015

Things my brother remembers clearly are vague or vanished for me.

Me too! I attributed this to the fact that I too have been absent for most family gatherings, and there is no reinforcement of memory by constant communication. My brother said this time- remember when we used to take the gas cylinders outside to wash them- and my reaction was of incredulity. Why would we even do such a thing, and he said because my grandmother insisted on this. No memory whatsoever of this incident, or indeed this practice. I ended up dubiously believing him, but it left a pang, how memory vanishes.
posted by dhruva at 5:42 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Holy crap, I'm glad she's not my sister.
posted by languagehat at 6:07 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

"I think all memoir is an act of following the shame. " I'd gladly have her for a sister.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:25 AM on January 7, 2015

Valerie Solanas wrote some perceptive and powerful lines too. Perhaps you'd gladly have her for a sister as well?
posted by languagehat at 8:27 AM on January 7, 2015

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