I have been reading. And the guilt of having temporarily abandoned this blog has waned enough to allow me to return to it. The above books were some of my attempts to get back on “track”—I’ve finished them all, am pleased with them, but then [to keep up with the tiresome navel-gazing I’ve been prone to lately], I have to wonder what exactly that “track” is. Still, I take comfort knowing that the question of What is this blog about? runs a far far far second to What have I been reading? and What do I want to read next? [I know that this past month has been the haziest and unfocused, re bibliophilic segues.]
Continued at “Since I Last Saw You" » Sasha & The Silverfish.
I post my thoughts books I’d read under the category Marginalia—and that’s what most of it is, my notes about a book (scribbled on the margins or not), questions I pose to myself, quotes that made my heart flutter. For the blog, I summon my English 101 skillz and attempt organization and a coherency. For this post, I’m letting you in on the blathering all over the pages of Mini-Red-Moley. The following is as it appears on my notebook (with only a few changes for formatting’s sake):
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# 47 (of 2010) – Man Walks Into a Room
- a novel by Nicole Krauss
His belief in his past life was polite: the kind one manufactures when in conversation with the faithful.
At first, it wasn’t that engaging: I flipped through the pages because I was promised (by hype? by praises sung? by my experience of her second novel, The History of Love?) that this would be a great read. Samson has been found in the desert, with no memory of who he is. A brain tumor lodged in his, well, brain. With the removal of the tumor, the removal of twenty-plus years of Samson life. Though he retains memories after the surgery, all he actually remembers stops at his twelfth year.
Dude’s got the memories of a twelve-year-old, but the sensibilities of a grown man. I am confused. Isn’t memory supposed to make us? [From a Philo reading, by St. Augustine—“I had become to myself a huge question” and “Nothing defines me more intimately than my memory… how then can I not only forget, but (and how would I know it otherwise?) remember that I have forgotten that which I have, nonetheless, forgotten? How do I remember that I have forgotten what I no longer remember? …Thus there remains for me nothing else but to admit that I have kept in memory the image of the forgotten, but not that which I have forgotten… Thus if my own memory renders me a stranger to myself, how could I not also become other than myself in the experience of my will?”]
Samson and his wife Anna. It gets good around page 38. An examination of relationships, how Samson deals with his memory loss by resolutely walking away from what he has forgotten. BUT. I thought this was going to be just that—an insular novel about memory and loving. And then, well, it got science-y. Samson has become part of this radical project—and the science is hokey; we are told the wrong things. My interest wanes, but I am attached to Samson now, his character, his sensitivities.
I’d wondered about point of view: why it’s Samson who has to tell us his story, why not Anna? The genius—and the bravery—of the decision stuck to me: here is a man who had a gaping whole in his own narrative—and isn’t our narrative largely concerned with our memory?—and Krauss has given him the responsibility of telling his story.
♦ I’m halfway through the novel. Samson has to be the one telling his story. This has gone beyond the heartaches between him and his wife Anna: this is him stepping inside his mind.
Billions of binaries, one or zero: simple as that. Like a game of Twenty Questions, an endless series of deductions performed to break down the world into its smallest parts. Are you Samson Green, one or zero? Is this your wife, one or zero? Do you love her? One or zero. We repeat the question: Do you love her, one or zero? The subject appears to be having difficulty answering. Is this a difficult question, one or zero? Until the world is reduced to math and all the equations equal zero, and in the tremendous silence of that final moment they ask in a trembling voice, the only ones left: Does the world exist? One or zero. And the answer comes back, though there is no one left anymore to hear it, the digits on the clock rolling back to start again with nothing.
The rest of this post is over at Sasha & The Silverfish.
My heart is weak and unreliable. When I go it will be my heart. I try to burden it as little as possible. If something is going to have an impact I direct it elsewhere. My gut for example, or my lungs, which might seize up for a moment but have never yet failed to take another breath. When I pass a mirror and catch a glimpse of myself, or I’m at the bus stop and some kids come up behind me and say, Who smells of shit? - small daily humiliations - these I take, generally speaking, in my liver. Other damages I take in other places. The pancreas I reserve for being struck by all that’s been lost. It’s true that there’s so much, and the organ is so small. But. You would be surprised by how much it can take, all I feel is a quick sharp pain and then it’s over. Sometimes I imagine my own autopsy. Disappointment in myself: right kidney. Disappointment of others in me: left kidney. Personal failures: kishkes. I don’t mean to make it sound like I’ve made a science of it. It’s not that well thought out. I take it where it comes. It’s just that I notice certain patterns. When the clocks are turned back and the dark falls before I’m ready, this, for reasons I can’t explain, I feel in my wrists. And when I wake up and my fingers are stiff, almost certainly I was dreaming of my childhood. The field where we used to play, the field in which everything was discovered and everything was possible. (We ran so hard we thought we would spit blood: to me that is the sound of childhood, heavy breathing and shoes scraping the hard earth.) Stiffness of the fingers is the dream of childhood as it’s been retruned to me at the end of my life. I have to run them under the hot water, steam clouding the mirror, outside the rustle of pigeons. Yesterday I saw a man kicking a dog and I felt it behind my eyes. I don’t know what to call this, a place before tears. The pain of forgetting: spine. The pain of remembering: spine. All the times I have suddenly realised that my parents are dead, even now, it still surprises me, to exist in the world when that which made me has ceased to exist: my knees, it takes half a tube of Ben-Gray and a big production just to bend them. To everything a season, to every time I’ve woken only to make the mistake of believing for a moment that someone was sleeping beside me: a hemorrhoid. Loneliness: there is no organ that can take it all.
From The History of Love by Nicole Krauss [via smellslikesunshine]
Last night—three in the morning—I felt that I needed to read this again. The book has been unearthed from my shelves, and is now lying on my bed, just waiting.