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New Books Explore Subject of Memory

30 March 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

When first-time novelist Felicia Yap was 6 years old, she was hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street. Ms. Yap doesn’t recall the trauma but says her parents’ accounts of it diverged, with her mother describing the motorcyclist as middle-aged and her father remembering him as youthful.

“It really struck me even at that young age that memories are quite slippery,” says Ms. Yap, whose mystery, “Yesterday,” will be published in August.

Mercurial memories are at the heart of new nonfiction, as well as novels spanning genres from thrillers to young adult by Ms. Yap, Michael D. Lemonick, Emily Barr, Val Emmich and others. The novelists are mining their experiences and injecting technology and science into new takes on the subject. It’s a universal fascination, Ms. Yap says, because “we are all afraid that we’ll forget and be forgotten.” She sees a tension between our reliance on technology to preserve a torrent of selfies, videos and messages and our fear that those memories could be wiped out with a keystroke—or might not match reality.

Writers are “excited about what technology can afford us and the things it will allow us to do,” says Benjamin Storm, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California Santa Cruz, who focuses on human memory and forgetting. But they also are “worried that it will change us…So, it makes for great fiction.” Much of technology’s effect on the brain and memory remains a mystery. “We have this illusion that we’ve figured it all out but it’s not true,” he says.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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4 Comments to “New Books Explore Subject of Memory”

  1. Years ago, I drove my mom and her brother through the little burg where they grew up. One would say something about a memory, then the other would present a whole different version of that memory. On and on it went. I thought it was funny till I realized that some of the things I’m absolutely certain about are remembered all wrong (verified by historical facts connected to those memories). I think I’m the unreliable narrator of my own life.

  2. Hm. The stats I got 40+ years ago say her chances of being hit by a motorcycle were much lower than being hit by lightning. I decided to see what modern numbers were before leaving a comment, then found out that while data lightning strikes and deaths are fairly easy to find, motorcycle data seems to be lumped in with miscellaneous numbers including scooters and off-road vehicles. After half an hour of digging I decided I could make better use of my time by mowing the yard.

    “Why don’t authors check all their facts before they send a manuscript off?!”

    “Because they’d still be checking…”

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