Have you ever lied about reading War and Peace?
Me neither. At least, I don’t think I have ever lied about reading it. I mean, it’s not like I’d remember, or anyone could tell the difference between my lying about having read it or my actually reading it.
I have read it. I just unfortunately remember virtually nothing about it. I’ve read most of the classics (including 1984), and I remember just as little about the majority of them.
My inability to remember anything about the books I have read, whether or not they are classics, came up recently when my Partner and I were trying to pick a movie. I won some gift certificates at my dentist’s (true story), so even though we rarely go to the movies, we decided we were going to make up for my lack of social stimulation from the meetup-group-that-wasn’t last week by having a good old-fashioned dinner-and-a-movie date night. We rarely see movies in the theater because they are very expensive and only one theater within a reasonable distance has reclining seats. Seats for the 3-D showings at the “comfy” theater for first-run movies fill up fast, and planning ahead to get tickets before they are gone is tricky with chronic illness. We usually end up seeing movies On Demand or on Netflix months after they came out. But, with a gift certificate it would be free, and I had arranged my schedule such that I was both mentally prepped to go out, didn’t have Improv practice because of the holiday weekend, and had a little extra time before I had to return to work.
My Partner originally proposed seeing A Wrinkle in Time. That book is one I would claim has left an indelible mark on my childhood. I definitely remember reading that book and feeling comfort as a child growing up in the 9th Circle of Hell that the primary message of the book – at least as I interpreted it – was that suburbia was the enemy. This was very comforting to an outcast kid wondering why her life inside her particular ticky-tacky little box all the same seemed so different from what it was supposed to be.
That message is, apparently, all I remember about that book. My Partner read some reviews of the movie and discovered that they changed the ending in a subtle way that killed his desire to see it. The new ending, without giving away any true spoilers, has a subtle change that is a bit too neat and pat for him. He assumed I would feel the same way. I did, but only after he patiently reminded me what the original ending actually was and thus how the new one sent a different message!
I’ve read many books that have stuck with me, but thanks to ADHD and brain fog, it’s usually only a very small piece of the overall book that sticks with me. The rest has faded into a distorted fog just like a lot of my memories of my own life over the years. I remember specific scenes, specific characters, specific concepts or messages. I’ll even occasionally remember a quote, if I create a Pinterest pin of it to at least help! I probably couldn’t tell you most of the linear plot of any of those movies.
I’ve never had a good memory. ADHD, chronic illness and trauma will do that. This, unfortunately, leads to a lot of awkward situations wherein – even when I’m the one who recommended a book to a book club – I can’t remember it well enough to talk coherently about it later. I can’t discuss it like I’ve actually read it, and I wonder how many people think that I’m lying about having read it just to look smart when I fumble in this way.
I have to be especially careful about discussing the classics like A Wrinkle in Time or, God forbid, War and Peace, because people will leap to assuming I am faking it even more quickly. I have read them. I’m just liable to blunder into a memory trap about two seconds after my hyperactive mouth spouts something off about the book that makes me look like an idiot instead of clever and worldly. It isn’t just the classics either. I will regularly panic and forget names or dates in history even though I’m a huge history buff, forget the name of the author of a journal article I literally cited in my last published paper (or, worse, that I presented with on a conference panel), or the name that I am supposed to drop in a meeting at work that helped us get the meeting in the first place!
My Partner and I decided not to see A Wrinkle in Time after all. I think I need to actually re-read it first, so that my opinion of whether it still means something to me as an adult is shaped by the book itself, not someone else’s warped re-telling of it. Maybe I’ll see the movie on Netflix in about eight months, after I remember enough to know what to complain about with it. (Or, at least in the privacy of my own living room where my Partner can remind me where to complain without the shooshing from others!)
We decided to save our gift certificates until Avengers: Infinity War comes out. We’re geeks, after all. And, given my piecemeal memory, I will have some time to remind myself where all the infinity stones are in the vast Marvel cinematic university before it comes out. (It isn’t just books that I forget the details of, after all.) There’s no armistice from my personal brain fog of war…
Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.