Saturday, October 1, 2011

Remembrance and Forgetting

One great life disappointment is my utter inability to recall more than a small fraction of what I read. My friend Molly offers the consoling thought that every bit of data leaves its imprint. Her theory is that when I read another history of Prussia, I'll more quickly understand when the author refers to Philipp zu Eulenburg and when to Fritz Count zu Eulenburg.

Others say the reader retains a work's gestalt even if a week later he thinks AIG and Standard & Poors negotiated the Reinsurance Treaty to saddle taxpayers with bad mortgage debt.

The novelist James Collins concludes that the only hope is careful study of Tables of Contents and Indices, and aggressive use of marginalia. I fear he is right, but then how to allocate one's time between new materials and notes from the old?

Sigh. I hope to place my Kindle clippings file with Knopf...

1 comment:

  1. I face this as a teacher all the time. If something does not stick, why not? There is a lot of work being done in brain research about memory. "Brain Rules" by John Medina is a great source (and a cheap Kindle download). Some basic points - stuff needs to be placed in a context, prior knowledge. Repetition helps. So do visuals.