Archive for the ‘memory’ Tag

“You Must Remember This …”   Leave a comment


Remember by Lisa Genova is about all those little, and sometimes big, things we often can’t recall – and why.

She is the bestselling author of Still Alice, an account of a woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Genova is a neuroscientist whose grandmother was the novel’s inspiration.

In Remember, Genova has written an engaging nonfiction work about memory lapses and triggers for recall that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. She uses personal experience and humor to describe easily-relatable experiences.

The contents are divided into three sections: How We Remember; Why We Forget; and Improve or Impair. With few exceptions, she notes, most people do not have the capability to remember everything; she also gives an example of a man unable to maintain any memories. Most of us fall in the middle.

Stress, sleep deprivation, and emotions are among the contributors to faulty recollections. Apparently, there is also a tendency to embellish or discard elements either consciously or not.

Tip of the Tongue (TOT) situations are addressed. We might be able to remember details related to the main point (such as a movie title). Such details are often distractions keeping us from finding exactly what we’re seeking (an actor’s name).

When describing the book’s premise to a friend, I actually forgot some of the points I found most fascinating. One thing Genova does offer is reassurance that not all forgetfulness is an indication of Alzheimer’s. Yes, age does lead to a decrease in recall, but only because life creates a lot of memories.

Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting

Four-and-a-half Bookmarks

Harmony Books, 2021

256 pages, including suggested readings

Imagination Meets Memory   Leave a comment

Ocean End of Lane

Part Harry Potter, part Alice’s Adventures  in Wonderland, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman compels the reader’s imagination to relinquish, among other things, fear of the unknown. It’s worth the little effort needed to suspend belief, but Gaiman makes it very easy through his sensitive story telling that mixes memories, nightmares, and hope into one gripping tale.

The story begins as the narrator returns to his hometown for a funeral. He recalls how 40+ years earlier as a shy, reclusive seven-year-old he is befriended by Lettie Hempstock, who lives with her mother and grandmother. The boy has no friends, but Lettie, who is four years his senior, draws him out of himself. It’s Lettie who believes the pond on her family farm is an ocean.

At the same time, a nanny, Ursula Monkton, arrives in the boy’s home. It will come as no surprise that Ursula isn’t what she appears to be. In fact, she appears as many things. Lettie becomes a protector who in the process of caring for her young charge takes on numerous risks – dangers the young boy would never face on his own, but who willingly approaches them with Lettie.

Gaiman blends magic, mystery and the passage of time into a single cauldron where dreams, recollections and reality are hard to distinguish. The now-grown man finds himself at the Hempstock farm with whom he initially believes is Lettie’s mother since it’s unlikely, in his mind, that Grannie Hempstock is still alive. Yet.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Four Bookmarks
William Morrow, 2013
181 pages

The Vagaries of Memory   2 comments

Julian Barnes’s The Sense of An Ending succintly examines the lackluster
life of Tony Webster, an uninspiring British gentleman deficient in confidence
and family background. Tony narrates the story of his very ordinary life from his
school days to his retirement; but don’t worry, it’s not as tedious as it sounds.
Whole elements, from marriage to parenting to divorce, are simply allotted a
passing mention. Although, intrigue is found, as contradictory as this may seem,
in the mundane when Tony’s conventional past rear-ends his present day exist-
ence forcing him to scrutinize incidents more closely.

Tony’s story relies on his memory, which is like everyone’s: a bit faulty. The
novel’s retrospective focus is on Veronica, Tony’s first real girlfriend, and Adrian,
his school chum. Both play a large part in Tony’s younger life, although Barnes’s
tone is particularly casual toward them. It’s as if these relationships are no more
significant than passersby on the street. Herein is one of Tony’s major flaws, as
identified by Veronica: nothing excites him. This inability to be moved, or even
demonstrate it, is part of Veronica’s palpable frustration with him. Not that she
is free from fault either. He admits he sees only the obvious, which is interesting
given that he is oblivious to so much. Nonetheless, a mystery ensues with Tony
trying to finally understand the connection with Veronica, her family, and Adrian
to vague recollections of long-past incidents and snippets of conversations.

This terse novel suggests a lot about how and what we choose to remember.

“The Sense of An Ending”
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
163 pages