Sunday, May 10, 2009

Speak, Memory--but don't say too much

I think I mentioned awhile ago that I have come up with several ideas for post here that don't involve too much work on my part. Here's another.

When I read Nabokov's Speak, Memory in the not so distant past, I came across this article from Salon Magazine, which supplements his story a little.

All families have secrets, and I suppose all writers suppress certain aspects about their family that are hard for them to admit, for whatever reasons. However, when you invoke memory deliberately, you are setting a higher bar for yourself, and editing out your younger brother in the kind of ways Nabokov apparently did involves some effort.

I admire Nabokov as a writer, though my reading of the novels is patchy at best. I did not care for Speak, Memory, though. I am wonder if this particular lapse of memory may hold some of the reasons why.


  1. Nabakov's theory is interesting, since i am very interested in the workings of memory. Remembering may be involuntary, but consciously recalling and recording memories is a deliberate, selective act. Doing that in Past Continuous, I find myself stumped sometimes, when certain details seem to hover just beyond the edge of recall. And sometimes, some memories are there, vivid and detailed, but instead of writing about them, I try to push them back, because they are too painful or private.

    BTW, the titles for this post and the previous one are really very very good.

  2. Thank you, on the compliment about the titles, Sucharita. I am not sure if I am taking more interest in them or what, but it's worth considering them as a more important part of the post.

    It's been really interesting trying to come up with my own memories based on your prompts. It's intriguing being a Westerner, because though many of your memories elicit immediate cries of recognition from your other commenters, for me it is definitely an act of translation. The scented eraser post seemed to evoke Proustian style 'madeleine memories' among your compatriots, but for me, though there was no shared memory, there was a kind of straining after something that was, as you say, 'just at the edge of recall'. It's interesting to see how this 'different cultures' dimension plays out. Erasers are evocative for me too, but they are not the same sort of erasers, and without some kind of a word latch, I couldn't really bring it to the surface of consciousness.

    Anyway, I hope you keep your blog going for a long time, Sucharita. I think it's memory work is quite powerful, for those who are willing to take the risk.

  3. Seana,

    thanks for the link to Adrian's Enfield-post. Not having a bike at home, and sharing some of your concerns about bikes (re your comments on that post), I have hardly any 'active' memories of the Enfield, but I checked with the spouse, he and his friends definitely regard it as a 'classic', way better than many later bikes.

  4. I'm glad you checked it out, Sucharita. I thought I had nothing to say on that post, but it turned out that, for better or worse, I said quite a lot.

    So does your husband have a bike these days or no?