The Sense of an Ending
I thought this was really, not beautiful in itself, but just true to life in a way that feels beautiful. I think I loved it so much because it's this big heady idea about the fallibility of memory and how we cultivate a personal narrative for ourselves, but it never feels big in the telling. The moments and ruminating don't feel like some heavy piece of this philosophic burden, they just feel grounded and honest. It has very little affectation and writery writing. Even when the narrator is overtly philosophising, it feels natural.
I've had a fascination with memory for a while, since mine is just terrible. When people have memories from their childhood, it seems like magic to me. I used to not believe people, that they could actually remember the things they do. I mostly have no connection to my past. When I hear stories from others about me, it's always a little weird, because I'm essentially learning something about myself for the first time. "Oh I did that?" and then I have to decide how I feel about whatever it is I did. It just always feels weird, because now I'm making these judgements or assessments about myself, based on the actions of what feels like some dude I don't even know.
Anyway, that's all relevant because the book is largely about how we use our memories to build our own personal narratives, and specifically how we, intentionally or otherwise, manipulate what we remember in order to serve our narrative. Memory is inherently unreliable to varying degrees. When you "remember" something, you're actually rebuilding that memory at the time of recall, based on all the details you have filed away. Your brain sort of redraws the picture based on a description, but you can't retain the complete description of a memory so your brain fills in the blanks. And the next time you pull up that memory, you're effectively pulling up the description from the last time your brain drew the picture. If you've ever noticed how sometimes when you have a memory about someone from a long time ago, they sometimes more or less look how they look now. The description of the memory might just have "Jason" in there, so your brain throws in it's idea of "Jason", which might not be "Jason at age 13". An easier example for me is hairstyles. If I have a memory of my girlfriend from when we started dating, in the memory she generally has her current hair (in fact I forgot what her hair used to look like until I recently saw a picture from then). The exception of course is when the memory specifies the hair for some reason. I digress. Memory is inherently unreliable, or at least flexible. So overtime, your memories can shift about to support your changing personal narrative.
For me specifically, with my memory being what it is, it just got me wondering about what that does for my own personal narrative. I have so little support to lean on. I don't even care if it was manipulated to make me think something about myself, at least it would be there. It makes me wonder if maybe that's why I feel like I change so much (I feel like I change a lot). I feel like my state of mind is heavily dictated by it's current and recent circumstances and stimuli. Maybe that's because I lack my own historical context. I'm not a scroll that unrolls, I'm a wax cylinder that can only hold as much information as fits onto its surface. Maybe that's why I sometimes have a hard time really caring about things, especially over time. I don't know. It's always a bit uncomfortable thinking about this kind of stuff, and I've thought about it before, but this book brought a lot to the conversation for me.
Although, it has a weirdly vague twist ending, and I hate twist endings. 1 star. do not recommend.