Sunday, March 25, 2007

maybe that day the homunculus who lives inside my head forgot to press "record"

This blog will not be taken over by my anxieties regarding aging. But: another social science blogger recently posted a rousing review of a certain book that I've owned for maybe three years. I thought, "You know, I really should read that." So I pulled it off my shelf today along with a couple of other books so I could move them to my nightstand where they would, like most books on my nightstand, remain unread but still be in a kind of well-intentioned queue. Then I opened the book and saw it had all kinds of underlines and notes in the margin in my writing. I've done this before. But here, even as a flipped through it again and looked at my margin notes, it jogged absolutely no recollection of ever having read the book before. Nothing, even sentences that warranted circling with three asterisks and an exclamation point in the margin, rang any bells. None. Zero. If not for the irrefutable evidence of my own markings inside the book, I would testify under oath that I had never read it.

This just increases my conviction that I need to start moving my brain into Microsoft OneNote 2007 as much as possible. Not that I think it's that great a program, but I need to put my brain somewhere and I don't know of any better software alternative.

So, do I read the book again, since I wanted to read it and it's like I've never read it? Or do I assume because I don't remember reading it that it can't be that useful?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

what's the book?

Lucy said...

I have done that many times with fiction (and journal articles, but I'm not so concerned that I don't always find them memorable).
Obviously, you thought some of it was worthwhile enough to deserve asterisks and exclamation marks, so maybe you should reread it.

Anonymous said...

i'd say do not re-read if your first read left not discernable memories. if it was important to your thinking, it would have registered.

eszter said...

Any chance that reading it may have led to useful revelations about something that then influenced something else later on and.. well, you know, you simply can't remember this chain of events?

I say reread. You might want to trust your judgement that it was worth consideration.

In the future, you might want to add a date in books so you know _when_ you'd thought certain passages warranted asterisks and underlining. For example, if it was many years ago when you were more likely (?) to underline without much reason then it's less relevant, but if it was during a hectic time in your life when you know you would've only underlined really important things, that would be helpful to know. (Then again, this could be a day-to-day variation not a lifestage variation in which case this won't be of much use.)

shakha said...

If it makes you feel better, I often re-visit things that I HAVE WRITTEN and think to myself, "Hmmm... that's interesting" or, "Huh, that's news to me".

Gabriel said...

maybe you didn't forget the whole book but just that you bought a used copy (and what your own handwriting looks like).

eszter said...

Shakha, I wish I could say I have no idea what you're talking about....

jeremy said...

I think I'll refrain from identifying the book.

I also have trouble where I write things and have no memory of them, or for that matter have whole running jokes with people and have no recollection of them.

nina said...

This is what becomes of a generation that never had to memorize phone numbers. Now you pay.

Kieran said...

I just found myself quoted in a sermon, of all things, and had no memory at all of ever saying what is attributed to me there. A little googling established that it was from an interview I gave to a journalist recently, who then went off and wrote something (not wholly inaccurate) based on what I said.

In the meantime, look forward to buying copies of used books from Amazon that you yourself previously owned and sold.

shakha said...

Still something else to make you feel better:

1.) I own three copies of a biography of John Keats (same version).

2.) This means I forgot, TWICE that I already owned it.

3.) I'm not actually that into poetry.

4.) In particular, I don't actually like KEAT'S poetry at all (or at least, not much).

5.) There are bookmarks in two of the biographies at two different places, and indications that I actually read to these spots.

6.) I know nothing about the life of Keats.

7.) I'm younger than you. By quite a bit, I suspect.

My excuse: I have insomnia. So I read a lot at night, when I can't sleep, but really, my mind is probably close/wants to sleep. That, at least, is what I hope. Either that or when I'm drunk I have a particular fondness for reading the biography of Keats.

Anonymous said...

If you read it and it wasn't worth remembering that you had, this should be an indication that the book is not worth reading again. (This presumes that you have read other books and not forgotten them.)

If it happens to be a book with a title with words beginning with C, O, and then D, then I think I know what it is and who wrote the review. If so, I would infer from this that the reviewer is an idiot, not that age is catching up with you.

Danielle said...

Just re-read the parts you underlined.

jeremy said...

The reviewer is not an idiot, as surely as age is catching up with me.