Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Book Memory Access System

1) I map my entire life in books. Don’t call me mad. Have understanding. 2) It helps me remember the important moments. I recall the book I was reading when such-and-such happened. Then I remember the event. 3) Sometimes, of course, I remember the book more than I remember the such-and-such that happened. 4) Therein lies the tension in this literary memory system. 5) You see, although people think life is chaotic, unpredictable and arbitrary, on a day to day basis, life is routine and drab. 6) Unless we have money. 7) But even still, forethought eliminates the truly ‘spontaneous’ moments of life: no one suddenly goes off to Mexico for a week. They think, perhaps two hours beforehand, about going off to Mexico. 8) There is order everywhere! 9) Except, perhaps, in this anecdote. 10) But here’s the problem: this memory system creates a fundamental tension between the act of living and recalling life, and the act of living through books and recalling life through books. 11) For example, I might remember Alyosha’s moral goodness in The Brothers Karamazov profoundly, over the time I slipped on the beach and made everyone laugh oh-so-loudly. 12) The beach incident, when I mix with people in the sunshine, might be considered a ‘precious’ memory moment, but to me, the story of Alyosha pricks my memory to a greater extent. 13) The question: could my love of books, and this memory system, reduce all human endeavour to a rubbish plot with flat, lifeless characters, no action, and terrible drudgery? 14) Or do I lead a particularly boring life? 15) Not when I read books, I don’t. And I’m not about to stop reading books anytime soon.


  1. I do this. All my books are in the order I read them, right from age 6 or something, through to present day. When I moved out I boxed them up and was surprised to find that the storage boxes took pretty much exactly the amount of books that corrolated to a specific time of my life- a box for primary school, a box for secondary, a box for college and uni (coursework and booze slowing down the reading rate)and a box for post -uni life. I also remember family holidays/excursions along with the book I was reading. I'm going to Tenerife with the family in May- and have a pile of unread to choose from. I wonder what memories I'll come away with...

  2. Brilliant. I'm impressed by the fact you've maintained a completely chronological library since you were six. That's an achievement, says I, unsarcastically.

  3. Just stopped by your blog by coincidence. Really nice! I'll keep reading it!