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January 9, 2011

I Remember Nothing


I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron
Nonfiction – Essays
2010 Alfred A. Knopf
Finished on 12/2/10
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)




In my early days of forgetting things, words would slip away, and names. I did what you normally do when this happens: I scrolled through a mental dictionary, trying to figure out what letter the word began with, and how many syllables were involved. Eventually the lost thing would float back into my head, recaptured. I never took such lapses as harbingers of doom, or old age, or actual senescence. I always knew that whatever I’d forgotten was going to come back to me sooner or later. Once I went to a store to buy a book about Alzheimer’s disease and forgot the name of it. I thought it was funny. And it was, at the time.

Here’s a thing I’ve never been able to remember: the title of that movie with Jeremy Irons. The one about Claus von Bulow. You know the one. All I ever succeeded in remembering was that it was three words long, and the middle word was “of.” For many years this did not bother me at all, because no one I knew could ever think of the title either. One night, eight of us were at the theater together, and not one of us could retrieve it. Finally, at intermission, someone went out to the street and Googled it; we were all informed of the title and we all vowed to remember it forever. For all I know, the other seven did. I, on the other hand, am back to remembering that it’s three words long with an “of" in the middle.

My note to the curious: It’s Reversal of Fortune. Now see if you remember this in two days. ;)

As with Ephron’s previous collection of essays (I Feel Bad About My Neck), I found several gems that caused me to laugh out loud. Others, not so much. They’re mostly all about growing older, but it’s the ones about memory (or lack thereof) that resonate so strongly with me, probably because I'm beginning to worry about my own forgetfulness. I keep meaning to ask my doctor about this, but I can never quite remember to!

The Senior Moment has become the Google moment, and it has a much nicer, hipper, younger, more contemporary sound, doesn’t it? By handling the obligations of the search mechanism, you almost prove you can keep up. You can delude yourself that no one at the table thinks of you as a geezer. And finding the missing bit is so quick. There’s none of the nightmare of the true Senior Moment—the long search for the answer, the guessing, the self-recrimination, the head-slapping mystification, the frustrated finger-snapping. You just go to Google and retrieve it.

You can’t retrieve your life (unless you’re on Wikipedia, in which case you can retrieve an inaccurate version of it).

But you can retrieve the name of that actor who was in that movie, the one about World War II. And the name of that writer who wrote that book, the one about her affair with that painter. Or the name of that song that was sung by that singer, the one about love.

You know the one.

I’m sure we all recognize ourselves in this one:

I know you. I know you well. It’s true I always have a little trouble with your name, but I do know your name. I just don’t know it at this moment. We’re at a big party. We’ve kissed hello. We’ve had a delightful conversation about how we are the last two people on the face of the earth who don’t kiss on both cheeks. Now we’re having a conversation about how phony all the people are who do kiss on both cheeks. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. You’re so charming. If only I could remember your name. It’s inexcusable that I can’t. You’ve been to my house for dinner. I tried to read your last book. I know your girlfriend’s name, or I almost know it. It’s something like Chanelle. Only it’s not. Chantelle? That’s not it either. Fortunately, she isn’t here, so I haven’t forgotten both of your names. I’m becoming desperate. It’s something like Larry. Is it Larry? No, it’s not. Jerry? No, it’s not. But it ends in a Y. Your last name: three syllables. Starts with a C. Starts with a G? I’m losing my mind. But a miracle occurs: the host is about to toast the guest of honor. Thank God. I can escape to the bar.

This next one is very similar to a post on my cousin’s blog. Go here now – before you forget! – to give it read.

Have we met? I think we’ve met. But I can’t be sure. We were introduced, but I didn’t catch your name because it was noisy at this party. I’m going to assume we know each other, and I’m not going to say, “Nice to meet you.” If I say, “Nice to meet you,” I know what will happen. You’ll say, “We’ve met.” You’ll say “We’ve met” in a sort of aggressive, irritable tone. And you won’t even tell me your name so I can recover in some way. So I’m not going to say, “Nice to meet you.” I’m going to say, “Nice to see you.” I’ll have a big smile on my face. I won’t look desperate. But what I’ll be thinking is, Please throw me your name. Please, please, please. Give me a hint. My husband is likely to walk up, and I’ll have to introduce you, and I won’t be able to, and you’ll know that I have no idea who you are, even though we probably spent an entire weekend together on a boat in 1984. I have a secret signal with my husband that involves my pinching him very hard on the upper arm. The signal means, “Throw your name at this person because I have no idea whom I’m talking to.” But my husband always forgets the secret signal and can’t be counted on to respond to my pinching, even when it produces a bruise. I would like to chew my husband out about his forgetfulness on this point, but I’m not exactly in a position to do so since I myself have forgotten (if I ever knew it) the name of the person I’m talking to.

A few other essays that resonated with me, (but are far too long to share) include The Six Stages of E-Mail, What I Won’t Miss, and What I Will Miss. I especially like the latter—a list of what will be missed after dying. I think I’ll start a similar list and make a point to appreciate every single item while I’m still alive!

I started my list. I was afraid if I didn’t do it right away, I’d forget. ;)

14 comments:

  1. Boy, can I relate to those quotes. I seem to be losing my memory rapidly, these days. Bummer. Sounds like a really fun book.

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  2. Nora Ephron cracks me up, she always has (even with her novel Heartburn, which having adultery as the main issue, wasn't a funny topic). I loved I Feel Bad About My Neck, and now I can see how this novel would resonate deeply with me as well. The Senior Moment becoming the Google Moment? Lucky for us! And, thanks for telling me the title of the film with Jeremy Irons because it was starting to really bug me. I have those awful moments at parties when I can't remember people's names, people I should know, but far worse for me is seeing former students whom I can't remember. Shouldn't I recall the name of a child I spent at least 170 days of the year with, even if it is a few years later?! Love this post, think I'll love the book.

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  3. Always happy for a link!

    And this is why I have a child. One (only the one) who has a good memory. I tell him to help me out and he often does, although telling him aloud also helps my own memory. Someday, I've warned him, I will say, "Who was that person I said that thing to that time?" and he'll save the day. His brother? Also without a memory.

    My grandmother used to complain about her memory- I was about ten once when I realized that my memory was already poor, and if it really got worse as we age, I was going to be in serious trouble.

    I'm not sure that we're getting worse. We just have a lot more in there which can be forgotten. Every time I remember something new I figure I've got to forget something to make space.

    Once I talked to a speech pathologist about this (forget her name). Mostly I forget nouns, proper nouns especially. She told me this was very common (I remember that clearly) and she told me (I swear) that there is a name for this disorder. (You can guess the rest) I don't remember the name of it.

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  4. Those Google moments are why I'm seldom very far from my computer and certainly never away without my phone!

    Since I loved I Feel Bad About My Neck I'm definitely putting this one on my nook wish list.

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  5. This sounds kind of like a fun read!

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  6. This sounds great! I Feel Bad ABout my Neck had me laughing out loud and nodding an agreement when I listened to the audio (read by the author). Will have to check and see if she reads this one, too.

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  7. I think I want to read this one, but hesitate because in my family AD is a condition and a threat. I remember thinking some of the things my aunt did were amusing at first. Not so much later. Then my father.

    My own memory failures (even though they are not new and are varied--I can remember lines from poems I read years ago, but forget book titles from last week)have begun to bother me. They didn't bother me when I was younger and had the same selective memory, but they do now.

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  8. I'll be back to read this when I read the book. I LOVE this woman.

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  9. I've never read ANYTHING of Ephron's and I do believe I need to remedy that. This one sounds right up my alley.

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  10. Nancy - My short term memory is getting really bad. So is my husband's. Last night, as I was fixing tomato soup for dinner, Rod said we were out of Ritz Crackers. I asked him to put it on the list and while he was at it to please put eggs and bacon on it, as well. He wrote eggs and bacon and asked me what the third (or first) item was. Neither of us could remember! Between this and our poor hearing, we're pretty comical. :)

    Bellezza - Doesn't she though? I read Heartburn, too, but didn't love it as much as her essays. I think you'll love the book, too.

    So, right now, without looking, do you remember the title of the Jeremy Irons film? ;)

    Jill - How nice that one of your boys has a good memory. I wish I could depend on Rod to help me, but as I mentioned in my comment to Nancy, he's just as bad as I am!

    Janet - Enjoy. And be prepared to laugh out loud!

    Sheila - It is! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    JoAnn - If you enjoyed I Feel Bad About My Neck, you'll love this one. It's a little less elitist.

    Jenclair - Not all the essays are focused on memory (or lack thereof). I think you'll be ok with the book. Just take a glance at the Table of Contents and read what you're comfortable with.

    Nan - I can't wait to hear what you think. Hurry back!

    Andi - Yes, you do! Both of these books are found in the humor section at B&N. I have a feeling you'll enjoy both.

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  11. I was disappointed in this one. I loved I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK so much that I bought a keeper copy after having read a library copy. I had been hoping to relate to this book as much as I did to IFBAMN. It had its moments but ...
    BTW, I had Passport pictures taken today and all I could think when seeing them was that I feel bad about my neck.

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  12. Maudeen - I'm sorry this was a disappointment for you. I really enjoyed it, but if you noticed, my rating for IFBAMN was just a tad higher.

    So, a passport, eh? Where are you going?!?!

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  13. I'm so glad that Ephron has gotten back to writing. I loved her essays and really loved Heartburn.

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  14. Bybee - Isn't she a hoot? I read Heartburn 6 years ago and enjoyed it, too. I do remember, though, that it put me in a foul mood for several days. I think it was a little too similar to my first marriage and subsequent divorce. ;)

    I popped over to your blog (I'm sorry I haven't been better about visiting!) and read your post about salads. I've just discovered a fabulous food blog that you might enjoy. Lots of variety and yummy-looking recipes. It's called Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Check it out!

    And, I also see you read Tana French's In the Woods. I've read all three of her mysteries and love her writing. They get better and better with each subsequent publication. Check out The Likeness and Faithful Place. You can find my reviews on my blog.

    Thanks for dropping by with your comment. It's been a long time!

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