Essential Reading: Memory
So much writing is a way of remembering—a way of preserving memories, making sense of them, making them into something new. Linda McCullough Moore’s 2011 short story collection This Road Will Take Us Closer to the Moon has a single protagonist-narrator, and each of the stories pokes into different pockets of memory, her own and others’. Past relationships frame new ones; conversations remembered from childhood speak through the decades; old assumptions shattered make the present new. Family history and world history intertwine with the narrator’s intimate personal history, and each brisk, biting story that rises out of the texture gestures at both the power and the limitations of memory. Moore’s vignettes are often funny but also unsettling; her writing is unpretentious and her characters down-to-earth, yet the whole book is overspread by an eerie veil of otherworldliness. I particularly like “Something about the Darkness, Something about the Light”; the narrator, on a date with a man she met online, is subjected to a guided tour through the contents of his dead wife’s wardrobe. Her scattered ruminations are fascinating as she is drawn into someone else’s memories through someone else’s clothes.
Read on for recommendations of a few stirring memoirs:
Literary Reflections Co-Editor Kate Hopper writes, “I just finished My Mother’s Funeral, an engrossing new memoir by Adriana Páramo. The narrative shifts in time between Páramo’s mother’s funeral in present-day Colombia and Páramo’s childhood in Bogotá and Medellín. The mother of her childhood was fierce, protective and domineering—a colossal force in the lives of her six children. When Páramo receives the call from Colombia that her mother has died, she collapses in slow motion: ‘My body trickled down a wall until my chin touched my knees. I thought about Mom’s face but couldn’t see it. I could see her eyes but not her nose, her lips but not her neck. The rest of her was in bits and pieces. Her winter hands, her velvety ears, her porcelain left knee, her night hair. Mom was fragmented now. She used to be whole.’ My Mother’s Funeral delves into memory and ends up exploring not only the history of one family, but also that of a country and culture. I didn’t want this book to end.”
Kristina Riggle, Fiction Co-Editor, shares, “Not long ago, I finished The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. The author’s mother is dying of pancreatic cancer, and he’s well aware that while he’s sitting around with her in doctors’ offices talking about books, he’s also creating memories that he’ll carry with him into a future without her—and that future is nearer than either of them would have wished. That painful awareness of a person as both a patient and a loved one makes for a particular kind of memory; in this case, it resulted in a tender and graceful memoir.”