Tuesday, July 11, 2006

So Why Bother?

... So much that in reality is simply 'given' has to be decided when you're writing fiction. Facts have to be represented by pseudo facts, labouriously invented and painstakingly described. The reader must memorize these facts in order to follow your story, but they are flushed away almost as soon as the book is finished, to make room for another story. Before long, nothing remains in the reader's memory but a name or two, a few vague impressions of people, an indistinct recollection of the plot, and the general sense of having been entertained, or not as the case may be. It's frightening to think how many novels I must have read in my lifetime, and how little I retain the substance of most of them.
From Thinks by David Lodge

Isn't that just so true? Do you ever feel scared by how quickly the details of a book leach away from you? How much do you actually retain in your head of your favourite books?

10 comments:

Ted Mahsun said...

Most times I can only remember the plot and a vague feeling of enjoying or not enjoying the book.

I'm envious though, of a friend I have who can recite by memory whole sentences from a book he read ages ago and hasn't touched since! I think he finds it annoying talking about books with me because I can never remember the scenes he alludes to in our conversations!

bibliobibuli said...

he'd find me even more annoying 'cos i'm so blur! take comfort that david lodge seems to feel the same way

Chet said...

What I find more annoying is when someone describes a book they've read, saying how much they enjoyed it, and when I ask for the book title and writer's name, they say they can't remember either!

Greenbottle said...

that's the reason why i never take 'creative writing workshop classes' even if i had the time or join reading group (sorry)... i read purely for pleasure much like people who smoke , well, smoke...
no need to over analyze everything...just enjoy... that's one way of reading fiction at least...

Dean said...

The better the writer, the more we remember. I just watched a news story which included footage of an interview that took place in the year 2000. Noe, I remember vividly the things that were happening to me in that year, because they were so extraordinary. These personal memories are what we use to compare with what we read in books. The conflict or convergence between what happened to use personally and what we read, causes new configurations of synaptic connection in our brains -- I apologise for my scientific ignorance, but that's my understanding -- and thus enriches our lives.

Reading and memory are like the wind and the sea: as one acts on the other it causes things to rise up and gather momentum. This is what I think.

Kari said...

So true. I can barely remember plots - all I remember is how strongly I liked or disliked a book, or the feelings it evoked in me. I hate it when someone asks me what a book is about, because sincerely...I don't know!

The Eternal Wanderer said...

Let's see now...

I know and still remember 80% of the plot and characters in all 6 of JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.

I also still remember about 60% of all of Anthony Horowitz's 6 Alex Rider Spy Series.

I also remember about 50% of Isabelle Holland's The Man Without a Face.

I can also still remember 50% of the content of Neil Gaiman's Book of Magic graphic novel and also 50% of his Neverwhere novel.

I also know bits and pieces about Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and Clear and Present Danger plus John Grisham's The Client.

That's about it. :D

bibliobibuli said...

i guess i was feeling frustrated because if i don't make notes while i'm reading a novel i want to review, i end up having to reread whole chunks of it

the names of the characters seem to disappear out of my head almost as soon as i'm done with a book

but i agree with dean and eteranl wanderer that the truly remarkable scene engraves itself on your mind .... but then when you come to reread it later, you find it mysteriously changed! remember the author's ghost poem i posted some time ago?

Anonymous said...

I don't remember names myself.. but I remember characters and scenes, yup :)

Totally Depleted said...

Read this David Lodge about 3 years ago and I can only recall that that the hero was a cognitive scientist, the heroine was a writer and that they were having more fun with each other than they should. Oh yes, there was also something about a paedophile who killed himself.

If that's all I can recall, why bother? Well, I know I enjoyed the book during the reading process. For me, that's quite enough.

After all, if we had total recall off all the books we read, then we'd all be 'mini-geniuses'. Can't have that can we? The world would be so dull.