Monday, August 13, 2007

The Unreliability of Memory

My mom came to visit me on Saturday. I told her a bit about my blog, and the memoir writing I was doing. She didn't offer to read it and I didn't offer to share it. I'm not sure of her reaction. But it was interesting to place these events on some kind of timeline. She told me that the camp happened right after my burns, and that my dad came less and less often (he had a girlfriend no doubt). She also said that he didn't move us. We lived with some church woman until my mom could get us a place. And I have no memory of this woman.

My memories are not connected to time. They are fragments and glimpses of things that happened coupled with things and times that did not happen. I have a collection of scenes, and moments. They are disembodied though, and the only sequential sense comes when I engage in a narrative. Thus I think that the memoir writing I engage in here is not nonfiction at all but a fiction that draws from the world. So my self-indulgent is really the self-indulgent of all writers.

Bolano does this in The Savage Detectives. He uses the multiple memories of a wide range of characters. Some knew the poets intimately; others did not. They all have different tales to tell, and different perceptions based not just on their personalities but on the times and distances from which they tell. What one character says in 1976 undergoes subtle transformations in 1996. It's a beautiful experiment, and it leaves the reader with a sense that what we know is really just small.