The Age of Memory

Since I have been reading a physical book at home and listening to a book while in the car I have started to notice that some books fit together. Some pair well like a nice merlot and medium-rare steak. Others you have to search for the similarity but it is there if you are looking, but I have noticed something.

A lot of the books written more recently focus on memory. How we remember? Why we remember? What would happen if we could return to a memory? What if no one remembered us? And what if we remembered everything perfectly?

Memory after memory after memory. Layers upon layers of variations on the same theme, our own minds and how they work. Even the non-fiction books have gotten into the game talking about the remembering self and the experiencing self and how only one of those truly exists because all we really have are our memories.

This is the artistic era we are living in. The age of memory. It makes sense when you think about it. We carry around with us devices that do our remembering for us. How many phone numbers do you know? Do you know the name of track 12 on your third favorite album of the moment right now? Do you know how to drive everywhere you go or do you turn on the GPS?

We do so little of our own remembering. Anything important is written down and stored in the cloud or on a usb drive or if you’re a conspiracy theorists on the hard drive of a laptop (no one really does that). Our brains storage is hardly used anymore. We have outsourced our remembering selves and since that is the most true version of ourselves we have in someways outsourced ourselves.

Literature exists to be a reflection and distillation of the world and time in which it was written. We are losing our memories and that is why I believe so many of the stories we, as a culture, are producing are about memory. We are exploring the thing we have decided we don’t need to hang onto. Let the smart phone or computer do the remembering for us.

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