Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I have a friend, Iris, who remembers stuff that happened to us in high school. And I have another friend, Miriam, who remembers the stuff that happened in college. Unfortunately, I don't have a friend in charge of remembering graduate school, so those years are pretty much a blur. Aside from keeping--and captioning--photo albums, where part of the pleasure is the surprise of remembering that I did that stuff, that I was actually there, I am not a rememberer. But I've seen how rememberers get started, because my daughter has always been one. She rehearses her memories, going over and over them until she's learned them like lines for a play.

The recent diary entry blog extravaganza, started by The Lass, continued in style by Freshhell and opened up to bigger metaphysical questions yesterday by Harriet the Spy, started me thinking about the value of memory. Lots of book bloggers used to say they intended their blogs as a reading journal or commonplace book, which is how this one started. But I'm not the only one who has moved away from that as a focus for the blog. I like what Rohan has been working on over at Novel Readings, an index for novels, authors, and themes, although her kind of index is not exactly what I'm looking for. Here in this impromptu season of blog introspection, I'm not ready to articulate exactly what it is I'm looking for with this blog. I keep doing it because it's fun, not because I want some kind of record of what I've read in the last year and a half. For one thing, I haven't been reading great books; I've just been reading whatever came to hand. If I were forced to make this blog more intentional, it would be something like a class--"here are the books I've read that I think the world needs to know more about."

And yet, as Harriet points out, there should be a reason for this level of sharing. I came across a poem recently--Record, by Sally Van Doren--that relates to how I feel about why I blog. (Not what I think, mind, but how I feel):

Tell me what it is to know nostalgia,
To recognize the face which appears
In the raspberry patch and calls to me
Twenty years later, reminding me that
A was the one who asked me to a movie,
That B took me sailing, that C slid
His hand under my criss-crossed bra,
That D offered me a drive through
France in her parents' BMW, that E
broke my hymen with his thumb, that
F plied me with tequila, that G rolled
Me on a nest of sticks. I'll tell
You my secrets in return and we'll
Forget them, together, with every X and O.

It could be that years of being home with small children has rewired my brain so that I now believe the process is more important than the product for every endeavor. But I don't think so. It's not that I'm incapable of leading an examined life, or even remembering things. It's more that, as the father of Indiana Jones says, "I wrote it down so I wouldn't have to remember it."

My single chapbook of poetry, which I put together during the blur that was graduate school, is entitled "Preface to Photo Albums Three and Four." I'm starting to think that most of my collections--of poems, pictures, ideas--are like that. Yes, they're a record. But they're also a way of showing things differently, of getting more perspectives. If I didn't already have such an inspired blog title, I might consider changing it to something like "hall of mirrors." Because I hope you do see yourself here.


Harriet said...

I think I'm going to riff on this some more at my place. Check back later today!

lemming said...

Interesting post, good food for though

BTW, officially request thoughts on the YA series "Warriors." You like cats more than I, so...

Jeanne said...

My kids report that they read part of the first one in the Warrior series and didn't like it because it's a bad imitation of Watership Down with cats that act uncatlike.

Harriet said...

AJ went through a brief Warriors phase -- he read the first three or four in rapid succession -- which he largely picked up from Unfocused Girl. If you're wanting more info, you might check with Mr. Unfocused or Green-Eyed Siren, lemming. I haven't read them myself -- I couldn't get into it. But they've had some staying power with AJ. He picks them up and rereads them every now and again.

Nymeth said...

I think I'm a bit like your daughter - I worry about forgetting things quite a bit, and I go over memories in my head. But I notice that after a while, I remember my own memories or events and moments more than I remember the moments themselves. Does this make sense? Anyway, I've always loved that line Indy's father days. Writing is about more than remembering for me, but it does make me feel less bad about forgotten things.

Jeanne said...

Nymeth, yes it makes perfect sense that you remember the way you've rehearsed your memories. That's a lot of what I'm talking about--even the same person can have different perspectives on something! Maybe what I should have said I'd call this blog is some variation on the word "prism." Because I like to hold something I've read up to the light and see it from different angles, and then hear about more angles from commenters.