Shut Up, Memory

The TLS’s Andrew Scull writes a glowing review of Douwe Draaisma’s Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older. The book is about the ways memory forms our past, or our interpretation of it. It uses literary examples from the work and characters of writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Edith Warton, Jorge Luis Borges, and Ernst Jünger, and offers views on Freud’s theory of “screen memories”; Jean Piaget’s idea of a flase “memory of a memory”; why we remember forwards,not backwards; what to make of handicapped children’s use of memory; and it examines, specifically, the attempts to make sense of the acceleration of time.

One of my favorite books about the funny nature of memory is Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Childhood. One of my favorite anecdotes:

My own son…used to be convinced that Mussolini had been thrown off a bus in North Truro, on Cape Cod during the war. This memory goes back to one morning in 1943 when, as a young child, he was waiting with his father and me beside the road to put a departing guest on the bus to Hyannis. The bus came through, and the bus driver leaned down to shout the latest bit of news:”They’ve thrown Mussolini out.” Today, my son knows that Mussolini was never ejected from a Massachussettes bus, and he also knows how he got that impression. But if his father and I had died the following year, he would have been left witha clear recollection of something that everyone would have assured him was a historical impossibility, and with no way of reconciling his stubborn memory to the stubborn facts on record.

One thought on “Shut Up, Memory

  1. Thanks for pointing out the review. If you ever get the chance you should take a look at Nabokov’s Speak, Memory

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