Thursday, August 1, 2013

Memory is such an interesting aspect of the human mind and experience.  I'm intrigued how experiences are recorded in our minds.  What qualifies as a moment?  And what makes a good story?  

It's tricksy because memory is slippery and often edited.  Quite simply, when remembering, we tell ourselves our own narratives.  There's power in that--to process, to share, and to change.  And there's truth lying about in the posed and filtered moments we capture, the manner in which we position ourselves.  But perhaps what's most fascinating to me is how memory--linked with our senses--allows our minds to transport.

Somewhere in the first book that I ever wrote, the MC has a strange, ghostly experience during a thunderstorm.  She's trapped in her broken down car, watching the rainwater snake down the windows.  It triggers a latent memory, and the moment feels so real to her that she says to herself, "If time travel is possible, it's through the senses."  Maybe I wrote that entire book just to come to that conclusion.  

The most vivid memories that I have are linked to smells (mothballs=grandmother's attic), taste (grape soda=summer picnics), or sounds (R.E.M.=lying on my bed, trying to memorize the lyrics to "It's the End of the World As We Know It.")  And yet, I've found there is something even more powerful than the senses in transporting the mind...  

Books.  (Boom).

There are certain books that I have read at certain times that will forever bring me back to that moment. Know what I mean?  It's kind of magic.

The Trembling Hills...As a young kid, I snuck this book out of the built-in, Victorian corner cabinet in the dining room.  It was my mother's book, hidden behind stacks of National Geographic magazines (with naked tribal women inside!)  It was the naughty shelf and I knew this book was definitely out of my age range.  But I fell in love with Sara Jerome and her rags to riches story.  Her clothes, her crushes!

Each time I read this book, I can smell the dust of the corner cabinet.  I can hear the handle click and the panes of glass rattle.

gorgeous cover by Paul Chin

Jane Eyre...When I was seventeen, several major things happened:  I graduated high school, my braces finally came off, I cut my waist-length hair to pixie, and my big brother got married.  It was an outdoor wedding, and my sole job early in the day was to babysit a pile of folding chairs to make sure no one came to the park and swiped them.  While everyone else set up tents and decorated, I sat on the pallet of chairs and read Jane Eyre for the first time.

Moment and memory solidified.

Twilight...That's right, haters, it made my memory list.  Sheesh.  You know you remember where you were when you first heard about this book.  When you opened the first page.  When you whispered the word, Forks, out loud just to hear how it sounded.  At the time, I happened to have been invited to some hippie potluck gathering in an old pink house when a friend slipped me a black paperback and whispered, "Have you read this yet?"

Even the hippies were down with that shit.

Side Effects May Vary...This book isn't out yet (you'll have to wait until 2014), but I begged a certain wonderful someone for an ARC (thank you, sweet, epic lady!) and it couldn't have come at a more perfect time.  This book talks to me in ways that others don't.  You know how some books hit you at exactly the right time, and seem to speak your language?  That's this book for me.  In some ways, it saved me. 

Right now, I'm forming a memory, a narrative.  Change is happening.  You see, I had a bit of whimsy in thinking that I should move my family back to the land of castles and dragons.  In a few weeks, I'm heading over the pond where the grass is (literally) greener.  (I mean, it rains a lot in the UK).

This decision has been hard on my American family and I'm leaving behind some seriously good friends.  My favorite friends.  During this up-and-down time, I happened to receive Side Effects May Vary and it couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time.  Although Alice and Harvey aren't dealing with the same sort of situation, they certainly have the same range of emotions I'm feeling:  Grief.  Immediacy.  Unknown.

I know with certainty that every time I pick up this book in the future I'm going to be transported back to this time.  I will remember how difficult my fanciful ideas can be on myself and those that care about me.   And how much of a jerk I am for doing it anyway.

But I'm also going to remember the green of the forest in my back yard, the hammock and the swing.  The smell of nighttime hitting the back deck and mosquitos attacking my feet.  There are so many senses tied up with memories tied up with words.  It's fascinating.  And bittersweet.

Whew.  Done.

And you?  You've listened long enough.  Tell me what books take you to moments in your life.  I am your eager audience.  xx


The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

My big one is the BSC series which just takes me back to childhood, dreaming about getting to be 13 and wanting to baby-sit all the time. I learned so many things because of the BSC (such as about diabetes; ballet plots) and have powerful connections to all of the girls.

Unknown said...

Hey there, Bookworm...Babysitter's Club! Claudia was my favorite. Remember how it was "popular" to like those books? Just like writing bubbly letters dotted with hearts, and butterfly pants. Man, those were the days.

Kristan said...

I loved BSC too! And Boxcar Children, and Nancy Drew. I remember how much I used to love going to the bookstore at the mall by my house to see if the new Nancy Drew in College book had come out. (Forgot the real name of that series.)

Haha, my "Trembling Hills" memory is of the Nora Roberts book HONEST ILLUSIONS, which is just awesome. Magicians, thieves, sex. What more could you want as a young teen? ;P

And TWILIGHT? Yeah, I remember. I was sick from work, unable to do ANYTHING that required moving, so I just sat on the couch and thought, Fine, I'll check this book out since everyone's talking about it. Read the whole thing in one afternoon, huddled under a blanket.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, so much love for this post.

The Boxcar Children series has a big spot in my memory, too. The librarian allowed me into the "big kids" section of my elementary school library when I was in 1st grade and I picked that book. It became my first favorite-with-a-capital-F book and it's because of that book that I started to write.

The Beacon Street Girls books in middle school were there for me when I was having troubles with my friends (who I eventually realized were bullies, not friends) and feeling pretty insecure.

Wicked Jealous and Graceling kind of inspired me to cut my own hair into a pixie cut last year, so I can definitely relate to that. :)

There are MANY other books in more recent memories that I could name, but I'll leave it at that, haha.

Unknown said...

Great post! I remember reading Twilight while at my aunts house party and never once looking up. It was a bad idea as everyone kept asking me about what I was reading until I found a quite corner and hold up there until we left.

As for older memories I remember reading the Geronimo Stilton books and then flipping to the back to see which I've read and what to read next!

-Mari @ The Sirenic Codex

Sarah Hipple said...

This is a beautiful post.

I love the comments too - I might have forgotten how important the Babysitter's Club was to me if I hadn't just seen them mentioned.

BSC, The Horse and His Boy, The Westing Game, and oh so many more.

Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart were my glimpses of the world of romance.

And Dune was a big one for me. I was the first truly intimidatingly epic fantasy (or sci fi?) I read. But it was worth it!

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