Sunday, November 21, 2010

forget me not

tonight i finally filled up my virtual shelves on goodreads. i started by sitting in front of one shelf at a time (actual shelves, in my house) and typing titles into my laptop. this is tedious work, people! if any of you have actually entered every book you've ever read into goodreads, then i salute you. personally, i gave up after a hundred or so titles.

something struck me as i was going through my books, title by title - something alarming.
there were several books - not one but several - that i sat in front of thinking, "i know i want to give this 5 stars. i loved this book. i raved about it. look how the spine is all cracked and worn. i carried this book everywhere." but i could not give 5 stars, because for the life of me, i couldn't remember ONE SINGLE WORD of what was inside that beat-up cover.

now, i'm not talking about books i read this year or last but at least a decade ago. STILL. how can i not recall the stories? one book, in fact, by my beloved Kurt Vonnegut, i actually had to pick up and flip through. just looking at the cover, i could quote some of the lines - and sure enough, many of those lines were marked inside, by me - but even after reading the first few pages, i couldn't remember the plot.

i'm certain i'm not suffering from memory loss, so why is it i can't recall these books? was i not a careful reader for a few years of my life? or is it possible these books are just... forgettable?

that thought really scares me. i have too many books in the "to-be-read" pile to go back and reread all the ones i can't remember, but what if they are worth remembering?
i'm also afraid, ten or twenty years from now, i won't remember some of the amazing books i've read recently.
and scariest of all - i'm suddenly terrified my own books have to be more than smart or funny or moving or well-written. they must be memorable. but damned if i know the magic ingredient that makes a book memorable.
then again, if Vonnegut can write something forgettable, i guess i would be in good company.


Anonymous said...

Hah - I just wandered over here from AW and this post so struck home. THIS is why I am not particularly tempted by an e-reader! (Ok, maybe the iPad, but that's different...). But if I can't see my books, if I can't pull them down and glance at them, or run to the shelves and check the title of something that's driving me nuts (i.e. I can totally picture the cover but what the heck's the name???)well, it will all disappear into the ether of my overstuffed brain.

erinjade said...

ooooh! wow, i never thought about that. you are so right. i am all in favor of e-readers for anyone who wants them - as long as people are reading. but everything you pointed out... just more reasons i'll probably never e-read myself.
*hugs books*

cyanz said...

I had a book in my bookcase for ages, and every so often I'd look at it and think 'oh, I've never read that.' So I'd read it, and get three quarters of the way through and remember that THEY KILL THE DOG and I had read it before.

I did this four times. Not kidding. After the fourth time I took it to a second hand bookshop.

Can I remember the name of the book or the author or what it's about? No. But I remember the dog dies.

I think, even if people don't remember what you've written, if they see your book and know they loved it they will read it again. I like reading things again when I can't remember what happened (except for the stupid dog book...). It makes it exciting again.

I agree about e-readers... I like to admire my books. Though e-readers have portability advantages.

erinjade said...

oh, i'm SO GLAD i'm not alone. and not having memory problems!
i guess it's true then that some books stick with us and some don't - regardless of whether we enjoyed reading them. sadly, there are a few that have stuck with me, even though i wish i could forget. :/

Kate Hart said...

I have this problem too, and a lot of it is because I rarely absorb character names. I tend to just recognize the first letter and go on, which is great for speed-reading, but not so great for retention of details. I know that I freaking adored Slaughterhouse Five and Crime and Punishment, but I couldn't tell you a single character's name and would be doing good to name two main plot points.