Mr. Eure | Brewster High School
On Keeping a Notebook
July 2, 2012Posted by on
If you are intrigued, you can learn about our first author by reading this profile; you also always have our dear friend Wikipedia to give you context. You should also revisit your summer assignment so that what you are being asked to do is fresh in your mind:
Pay careful attention to the sections on taking notes and the use and usefulness of a compendium. You might be interested in the term’s definition and etymology; this is formative work, built around cataloging reactions and insights as you read, and it will lend weight to your online discussion.
When you are ready to talk to each other, force your conversations to orbit the text. Bring yourself back to Didion’s language and reasoning as often as possible. As soon as you break orbit, you risk drifting off into the dark aether; keep quoting her, paraphrasing her, and using her ideas to fuel your own. Push this essay of hers past your working and short-term memory and into some deeper, more resonant place. If you need a push, you might use one of the two quotations selected for you below.
On a kind of confabulation:
I tell what some would call lies. “That’s simply not true,” the members of my family frequently tell me when they come up against my memory of a shared event. “The party was not for you, the spider was not a black widow, it wasn’t that way at all.” Very likely they are right, for not only have I always had trouble distinguishing between what happened and what merely might have happened, but I remain unconvinced that the distinction, for my purposes, matters. The cracked crab that I recall having for lunch the day my father came home from Detroit in 1945 must certainly be embroidery, worked into the day’s pattern to lend verisimilitude; I was ten years old and would not now remember the cracked crab. The day’s events did not turn on cracked crab. And yet it is precisely that fictitious crab that makes me see the afternoon all over again, a home movie run all too often, the father bearing gifts, the child weeping, an exercise in family love and guilt. Or that is what it was to me.
On revisiting past selves:
I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.
All right, then. Let’s talk about Didion, notebooks, and memory.