Monday, February 20, 2006

Memory

I have to say I’m fascinated by the story about Ray Power/Jay Tower, the gentleman who disappeared from New York six months ago and was recently discovered to have been in Chicago, desperately trying to find out who he was. I’ve been wanting to write a story for a long time about memory, because there are so many aspects of it that are interesting to me, and it’s stories like this that begin to get at why, for me anyway. I think about the difference between losing your memory suddenly, which is what seems to have happened here, and Alzheimer’s, which is a slow, awful descent. This man clearly remembered enough to get a name that rhymed with his own name, and lived in a shelter and went to the FBI to try to find out who he was to no avail. (I don’t know what it says that the FBI couldn’t find him but that in the end, America’s Most Wanted was what got him home.) And so now he’s back with his family, and they’re so happy, but he doesn’t know them, which has got to be painful for all of them on a “HNL” (anyone watch Mad TV this weekend? Ben and I have a new catchphrase…). My mind just goes in a hundred different directions: if I can’t remember anything, what is life? And what if I have my memory, and I love you, but you don’t remember me? Am I just loving the memory of you? I’m about to go down a very existential road here, come with me if you will, it’s the mood I seem to be in lately, but at a certain point, you have to start thinking about the body, and what difference does it make what we look like, because here they have this beloved man’s body back, but the him inside is at least temporarily missing. Clearly I’m rambling now and not getting at the essence of what’s in my head. Perhaps fiction is the way to go.
Or perhaps this is nothing more than me constructing an elaborate excuse not to go to the gym again.

2 comments:

Bookfraud said...

i, too, am facinated by this case, and am obsessed with the theme of memory in fiction, how it exists, how it is retreived, how it can never fully be the "truth" of prior experience.

like you, it raises a lot of questions with me. if you lose your memory, and you had a prior life, does that cease to exist? can you say that it ever "existed" in the first place? i think these are questions best addressed in fiction, if only because you can't definitively answer them with an experiment (then again, there's "Speak, Memory").

am a former chicagoan now living in n.y. i miss the place. or, rather i have happy memories of it...

Betsy said...

Welcome to a little piece of Chicago, Bookfraud! If that is your real name.