Notions, Of Memory and Forgetting

I spent my 21st birthday at a casino in Wendover, NV with my mother; my father’s oldest friend, who had been Best Man at my by then-divorced parents’ wedding; and a Catholic priest. I ordered a gin martini because I loved the glasses. It came in a cortado glass, however, filled with probably the worst gin they could fob off on those spending their hard earned money on casino games. I played slots for a while with my Mom but finally left her, plugging nickels into the machine, and went to bed.

Last week, my partner and I were trying to remember the sequence of our earliest trips together. We could remember the trips themselves but not which came when. Finally, laughing at our own inadequate memories, we gave it up as a bad job.

Why do some memories stick but not others? Why do I have some books tattooed on my brain and others I can only technically claim to have read? Meredith Hall has a gorgeous exploration of the slipperiness of memory, of what sticks and what doesn’t, of why it matters and why it does not: “We Are Built to Forget.”

Image by Peter H from Pixabay 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a vegetarian on or around Thanksgiving must be in search of a “main” or centerpiece to replace the turkey. I find this a perennial problem, with two camps. The first camp favors something with protein to replace the lost meat and balance out the excess of starches and carbs. The second camp, however, prefers something that looks impressive and fancy enough to be called a centerpiece—think of your Autumny lasagnes, raviolis, or over-stuffed squashes. For my part, I want that protein but while I love vegetarian proteins, it is hard to make baked tofu feel quite as special as a whole, golden brown bird. Leave it to Smitten Kitchen (natch) to solve the problem. I plan to make her White Bean and Leek Galettes this week, which has the added benefit of being the kind of recipe that can be scaled down for celebrating during this very weird year.

To that point, S. Bear Bergman shares some truly thoughtful ideas for how to make the holidays special, even at a distance. Bergman also shares this piece from Allen Salway, articulating the trauma many Native Americans feel around what many call a National Day of Mourning, rather than Thanksgiving. How can we make part of the holiday a reckoning with how we celebrate and memorialize a day (and a nation) built on the violent displacement of this land’s original inhabitants? Let’s practice expressing gratitude for our lives and loved ones while simultaneously recognizing the horrifying history that much of our abundance is built on.

And for some bookish notes:

  • Time brought together some Fantasy literature greats to put together a list of the 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time.
  • This week I tackled The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. The Age of Miracles focuses on a 11-year-old girl living through normal, suburban, adolescent stuff even as the earth’s spin starts slowing, leading to ever longer days and nights and cascading planetary effects. I appreciated the novel’s contrasting of how, for young people, the tug between personal and planetary apocalypse feels like a bit of a toss-up in terms of prioritization. But I felt limited by the novel’s focus on white, affluent, Californians, wondering what was happening in the rest of the country and the world. The Age of Miracles felt claustrophobic, strange for a novel about likely planetary collapse. That said, I read Walker’s second book, The Dreamers, earlier this year and really liked it.
  • On the other end of the speculative fiction universe is Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby, a slim novel about a brother, Kev, and sister, Ella. Ella discovers that she has, essentially, super powers, but finds herself powerless to stop racialized violence, the abuse and murder of Black Americans at the hands of the police, or her own brother’s fall into the prison industrial complex. Set in a near future, Riot Baby blends poetic prose with palpable wrath to virtuosic effect. And as the great Martina suggests, pair the novel with Julia Hart’s film Fast Color. Riot Baby eBook: Onyebuchi, Tochi: Kindle Store

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