Since today is prose day, I’m going to give you a blast of some non-fiction I’ve been writing. At least, it’s intended to be non-fiction, though some of it may be confabulation, because it is that paradoxical thing, a memoir of forgetting. Yes, folks, as I may have mentioned before, I am the anti-Proust because, whereas Proust remembered everything, I forget everything. At least, I used to; I’m getting better now I think. Hence the memoir. Here’s a blast of it:
The Anti-Proust: a Memoir of Forgetting
I’ve decided that I am the anti-Proust. Why? Because Proust remembered everything, but I forget everything: like undigested food, it all falls through my mind and out the other end. Not that I think the mind is an anus, exactly, but I believe that thought is in some ways analogous to the digestive process, and my thoughts go in and come straight out again, leaving no trace. Maybe they nourish me for a while, but then they’re gone and I’m back to square one.
And that’s my life, day after day; has been for the last five years. Like someone trying to catch falling snow I am constantly grabbing thoughts and recording them before they hit the ground and dissolve. But writing them down is the best way to record them, and so everywhere I go – on the bus, in the shops, in my room, in the pub – I take a notebook. So far so good. But there comes a time when I have to sleep – and that’s when I forget.
Then sometimes I wake in the night with a stonking, stupendous thought. I know I should write it down because it’ll be gone in the morning – but then I’d have to sit up and turn on the light and it’s cold and I don’t want to wake my sleeping partner; so I repeat the phrase over and over in my mind, teaching my brain to remember.
But by morning it’s gone.
This also happens in the bath; but the bath is more hopeful: I’m awake in the bath and I’m going to get out after a while, so provided I remember to write the thoughts down as soon as I’m dry, I can catch them before they are lost. This morning I caught three: a good haul.
Then there’s the issue of what to do with thoughts once they’re caught. So first they have to be classified: are they ‘pondering thoughts’ or ‘back-burner simmering’ thoughts – or are they ‘immediate action’ thoughts? Do they demand at once to be made into a poem or to seed a short story? Will they form part of a talk or a blog-post? Can I use them in discussion? All these decisions need to be made post-haste before it starts snowing again and I have to catch a whole new bunch of ideas.
And this is not easy because, although each of these thoughts is a world unto itself (just like a snowflake) none of them is an island. They are mostly archipelagoes; or sets of ice-floes connected under the surface; or peninsulas attached to huge land-masses. They are networks extending in a hundred directions, or ends of string which keep on unravelling.
And yet memory is not like this: memory is a thread that continually breaks. Memory snaps when I pull it: memory is the short straw. When I try to follow memory I come to a dead-end; a dark alleyway: a blind passage where a gang is waiting to beat me up.
(c) Liz Gray, 2013
Do you have any similar stories? Let me know.
And to continue the ‘snow’ theme, here is some falling snow for you to enjoy as well…