iPhone Friday_2

Andre Dubus III read from his recent memoir, Townie, at Politics & Prose last night and seduced the audience with a fluid, twenty-minute excerpt from his first venture into the realm of memory. In that I have been giving a bit of thought to dreams and memory as they intertwine, I was struck by his reasoning for tackling a memoir, perhaps the most daunting of tasks for a writer. Advised by his friend, the writer Richard Russo, that unless one uses the memoir as a way to settle old scores, the whole world of personal recollection is fair game and fertile territory. Now of course fiction carries its own baggage and, in the right hands, allows the writer’s voice to soar; but for me it is almost always the foggy details from one’s past that — when brought to the surface through words or images — have the most power and the most clarity. Dubus posited that certain simple details from his past, shadows if you will, served as road markers in tapping his memory, allowing one door to ease the opening of the next.

Growing up, my own father reminded me (time and again) that memory is like a muscle and with care and regular exercise can serve one well throughout life. Ultimately, while I sift through the sheer randomness of my iPhone images, I wonder if my instinctual responses to the things I see aren’t but samples of the very same memory/shadows that haunt us all. Carl Jung proposed that dreams might be a window to our unconscious allowing the waking self a road-map to wholeness. His theory suggested that things in life exist as paired opposites: good and evil, love and hate, and ego and counterego, also referred to by Jung as the shadow.

2 Responses

  1. Annie Houston

    So thoughtful and beautifully written, Max…and of course dreams can become memories that haunt as much as events in our daily lives.

  2. Mahmoud El-Darwish

    Fabulous reflections. Paired opposites perhaps. But you’ll discover that there are other possibilities as well. On the matter of Memoirs. The concept troubles me. Many treat them as collections and reflections of recollections. Your father had it right, the ‘memory muscle’ must be exercised constantly or it becomes flabby and well, can’t recollect, which is paradoxical.
    Personally and this, from my Grandfathers example, personally I don’t believe in writing memoirs from recollections but rather from reflections upon diaries. Diligently kept and cataloged diaries that contain contemporaneous reflections, that are then analyzed in later years when the memoir assembly process takes place.
    I like Jung but disagree with him in the larger scale of things. I can’t wait to read more of your works!

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