Friday, January 22, 2010

Man Walks Into a Room - Nicole Krauss

It never fails. I think I have an amazing idea for a story. Then I pick up a book that I really know nothing about and find that it's been done way better than I would have ever done it. This has happened with both Nicole Krauss books. Both of which I've picked up merely because she is married to Jonathan Safran Foer. And then she has to go and be awesome about it.

So this guy leaves his job, walks across the country, and is found in the desert with no idea who he is. He has a tumor and in removing it he loses 24 years worth of memories. He's 36 and his last memory is from age 12. Brilliant idea. I did have some questions. For instance, if your last memory was from age 12, wouldn't you be a slightly more socially awkward adult? Samson seems to accept it pretty easily (adulthood). I'm (almost) 27, have all of my memories, and I find adulthood to be more awkward than this guy did.

What Nicole Krauss was great at, though, was playing with the idea of what loneliness means and why it's important or desirous to be in company with others if it doesn't always feel as though it eases that loneliness. And if you lost all of your memories, would you miss them? Would you even know what to miss? If you suddenly found yourself with someone else's most intense memory (as Samson does, thanks to some cutting edge science), how would you react? Would it make you more lonely? Would you crave companionship? We're created to be sharing people, but to know exactly what someone went through, to actually smell the same smells, hear the same sounds, feel the same emotions, what would that do to you? It's one thing to be a shoulder to lean on, but to actually *know*... To understand the way a person is wired because of a thing that happened. It would make you ache for that person for having to go through it. You might want to try and understand because now it's this huge thing in your life, but they just want to move on. They've dealt with it already and don't want to go into it. Can you imagine knowing another person so intimately and finding that they want to keep their distance because the memory you're drudging up is just too painful? So where do you go from there?

I can't say I had any concrete thoughts on this book when I finished it last week, but as I write this I realize the concept leaves me a little uncomfortable. Like maybe, instead of talking, one day we'll just have our memories and thoughts transplanted into another human being. Let's cut to the chase. Avoid that "getting to know you" nonsense and just lay it all out at once. It would be too much. It would be overwhelming. It's scary enough letting down that guard and choosing to be with someone. Knowing that even though you're together it doesn't mean you feel less lonely. But to have all of their thoughts, you would *need* that person in a way that we don't need people now. And that person might need you in return, but it would be for different memories, different reasons. There will always be a disconnect somewhere. I guess it's just a matter of choosing what it is. And now we have that choice. In that world we really don't.

This is not at all where I thought I'd go with this. But I'm tired and emotional.

1 comment:

  1. Here's why Jonathan Safran Foer is going vegan! Check out this informative and inspiring video.