Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reading, Writing, Words, Memory

A while back I wrote about my unwritten books and called out a book by George Steiner that I wanted to buy with that very title. (But didn't because the unread around here is threatening enough already.)

Last night we were headed out to watch the UT Women's Basketball team take on an early, hapless opponent at Erwin Center and, as we were planning to walk, I looked around for a small, intense bit of reading material. What should I find but Marcel Bénabou's Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books, translated from the French by David Kornacker. (Have I mentioned that, if only I knew a foreign language well and wasn't ADD, that I think I would make a great translator?) But, yeah, digression...that's why it's in parentheses. I didn't remember owning this book, let alone reading it. (I'm pretty sure I hadn't cracked the cover.) Plus, for a moment I thought it might be the book that I was talking about in that other entry. That's hard to admit. I write and research stuff and then forget it. (I forget my own life in this way, in large measure. I've recently been rereading online journal entries from September 2001. There are many things in there I forgot I did and felt. Sadly I linked to places that were interesting that are gone from the Internet. I did not, by the way, go back to these entries because of 9/11. No I was looking for something else that, it turns out, occurred around that time.) But I really digress.

So I found Bénabou's book and took it to the basketball game and read some of it while keeping an eye on the action. You know, the downtime of time outs, half time, etc. Anyway. It's a very interesting book. Unfortunately I was reading it away from computer or dictionary, though, because there were words I didn't know. I like reading books with words I don't know, but I am frustrated if I'm dictionary-less at the moment of reading. For example, prolegomenon. Geez, one guesses it's like a prologue in spite of looking like a word for a person favoring certain Danish toy bricks.

It's funny but certain books I own I sort of remember reading while not watching basketball. (Even if I remember none of the contents.)

Is this forgetting of the particular in favor of some other kind of memory? Does it support remembering definitions of words in books, general knowledge of behavior and assumptions? I don't know. As I attack the NY Times Magazine puzzle this morning, I wonder. Where is all this stuff kept in my pitiful head? And why is some of it gone or impossible to access? And, if I wrote a book, would I forget it to an extent that I could read it (like the books of others) and have it feel fresh all over again.

In that vein, I'm going to type another bit of my unwritten novel here, assuming I can find the scrap I wrote it on in a book I'm not reading.
The harried woman scurried away as they emerged from the jetway. He was loitering, staying to the right of other rushed travelers. The woman was now chatting into one of the two phones she'd retrieved from her bag while they stood, unavoidably touching, in the crush of the aisle a few minutes ago. He paused by three newspaper boxes, one each for the Austin, Houston and Dallas papers. The Austin paper said in large type "Two Austin Men Dead in Berlin Attack."
I reread the paragraph I blogged before prior to typing this in. And I wondered about changing a word. The paragraph above I typed faithfully from the scrap I wrote in on in the coffee shop on Wednesday. (Did I mention I in this entry that I did that? Anyway. Somewhere I thought I mentioned it.)

What's the point of this entry then? I think to give you a chance to see inside my brain on a Sunday morning. It's a mess, isn't it?

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