A Taxonomy of Couches: Listmaking in Writing and Life

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

I make lists. I’m soothed, in particular, by the kind where you eventually get to cross things out or check them off. But I make other kinds of lists, too. Lists are containers; they are maps, taxonomies, blueprints. As a kid, I listed ways to make money, things I wanted to have when I grew up, things I needed to pack for vacation, boys I liked, books I liked, songs I liked.

I like writing that’s based on lists. I liked the litanies we said in church when I was a kid—Heart of Jesus, Lamb of God, pray for us. Nowadays I often used list-based writing in teaching.

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right… Continue reading A Taxonomy of Couches: Listmaking in Writing and Life

Memoir and Memory II: the Theater of Memory and Ways We Forget

A sudden loss of consciousness
Photo credit: Pulpolux
Note: This post is a continuation of the last, which began with musings on memory 1-10. 

Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.                                       – Walter Benjamin

11. There is a branch of sociology (and other disciplines) called memory studies. (I am so happy about this.) It investigates things like the ways memory impacts culture and the role memory plays in collective and individual identity.

12. This makes me think of how tremendously satisfying it can feel to remember together, how it can forge and strengthen connections with others.

13. A sociologist named Paul Connerton, a pioneer in the field of memory studies, has posited that there are seven types of forgetting.

14. One of the seven types of forgetting, repressive erasure, refers to the forced forgetting of language and customs by which a government or state may seek to control a people. Forgetting as a form of violence.

15. Families do this, too. Continue reading Memoir and Memory II: the Theater of Memory and Ways We Forget

Memoir & Memory


Memory has been on my mind. As I’ve mentioned in this blog, The Saltwater Twin contains some elements of memoir. Working on this book has meant hours spent in my brain’s attic, rummaging through memories, emerging powdery and hoarse with dust.

Actually, that’s not the way memory works. Turns out, it’s not even a good metaphor for how it works. A memory isn’t like a letter or a photograph. It doesn’t live in one place in our brain. A memory is a pathway, it links sensory and emotional data stored in different parts of our cerebral cortex and limbic system. This is my understanding, anyway, after the twelve or so articles and one podcast I recently turned to in an attempt to get acquainted with memory. Neuroscience is like space. It’s fascinating, hard to wrap my head around and more than a little disconcerting.

Here are some more (unscientific) things that fascinate me about memory: Continue reading Memoir & Memory