Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Joshua Foer on Memory--Five Books

I have to admit that of the various blogs I have somehow found myself writing, this is the one I'm most often dubious about continuing. The other ones seem to have fairly straightforward prompts for posts, but this one I often let lag. I'm not entirely sure of what I mean its focus to be, other than memory and the lack of it. However, just when I think maybe I'll let it slide or merge it into something else, something seizes my attention and I think I'll go forward.

Yesterday, The Browser sent an email about its Five Books segment, and one of them was an interview with Joshua Foer who was the author of the very popular Moonwalking With Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything. (One of the funny things about selling the book has been that more than one person has come up and said, do you have that new book that has something to do with Einstein? I can't remember the title.) Foer was the 2006 USA Memory Champion, and though I don't know exactly how he came to get the title, he does certainly seem to be a good person to ask about what five books to read on memory. His interview is   here.

One thing that somewhat surprised me was his strong emphasis on books which deal with mnemonic devices--"memory palaces" and the like. I have to admit that when I'm thinking about memory, I'm more thinking about associations to the past, and how things come to our collective awareness and then recede again. I don't think so much about rote learning and tricks for remembering. Perhaps I should...

Another interesting thing was his comment that we have a long history of devices that remember for us, the alphabet being an early one.

An odd note for me is that Giordano Bruno was a memory palace kind of guy. Lately, Bruno of Nolan has been popping  up everywhere. First in Finnegans Wake--repeatedly--then in the mystery novel, Heresy by S.J. Parris, which I'll be finishing shortly and now here. Well, he always was a shadowy, slippery individual.

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