Dispatches | September 14, 2010
I want to write one more time about memoirs, but then again, what I really want to write about is Club Memoir, a nightclub in Columbia, Missouri, which was named by someone who probably doesn’t know what the word actually means.
I often forget this place exists, but the other night a friend of mine asked me if a nightclub might better be given the French word for forgetting, rather than one that has to do with remembering, since having experiences that are bound not to be remembered is what one does at a nightclub, whether by design or not. Then he suggested that perhaps there should be a literary genre in which one writes about things that have been forgotten, and we speculated together what that would be called. Neither of us spoke French, so we were more or less at a loss.
Because it would have meant turning a light conversation into a serious one – and one that would probably interest only me – what I didn’t point out was that the memoir is already a genre about forgetting. At the same time that it draws on memory for its very content, a memoir must account for forgotten things. Memory is like a pitch-dark, subterranean room through which the memoirist must grope in order to write a narrative; much of the joy of reading a memoir comes from the ways in which an author works against the inevitable forgetting, or compensates for it, or incorporates into the fabric of a book the blank spaces one’s memory yields.
Robert Long Foreman is The Missouri Review’s Social Media Editor.
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