I have just realized something terrible about myself: I don’t remember the books I read. I chose “Perjury” as an example at random, and its neighbors on my bookshelf, Michael Chabon’s “Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” (on the right) and Anka Muhlstein’s “Taste for Freedom: The Life of Astolphe de Custine” (on the left), could have served just as well. These are books I loved, but as with “Perjury,” all I associate with them is an atmosphere and a stray image or two, like memories of trips I took as a child.
James Collins mentions in a very interesting essay called The Plot Escapes Me in the New York Times of September 17th that he often forgets about the contents of books he’d read. It got me thinking about my own reading habits and he is right. The thought of forgetting what I’ve read is appalling for me, yet it happens constantly. It’s not just the books that didn’t leave much of an impression. It also happens with books that I either loved or loathed.
Case in point: Life of Pi by Yann Martel.