I wonder how on earth we keep track of any of it

Bristling as well as warm breezes circulate among those people, and one may find oneself in a crosswind without knowing why. It must be connected to the density of memories in the room. Each person drags his past into a chair with him and then he sits down next to another person who has her past along with her as well—mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and friends and enemies and hometowns and roads and mailboxes and streets and diners and skyscrapers and bus stops are all there in the events that have stayed with him or her because the thing that happened caused pain or joy or fear or shame, and as I look back on the dinner party, I understand that the memories seated in the chairs along with the guests included dead people like Irma and Lindy and Ted Jr., yes, real ghosts borne into the present by each mind at the table—and when you multiply the pasts and memories and ghosts of everyone in the room, you understand they aren’t quiet or contained because they inevitably reappear in the conversation in one form or another, and then they begin to mingle and stir up the rest of the company, one blending into the other, and it’s not only the words of the conversation that count but the tone of voice each person uses when he or she talks, and then think of all the looking back and forth that goes on at a dinner table and the gesturing and all the visible information as well—faces that flush momentarily and tiny beads of sweat that form on upper lips and wrinkles that arrive on a face only in a smile, or the various pairs of eyes that appear cool and indifferent and other pairs that are alive with interest, or the same pair of eyes that seem far away one instant and focused the next, and every person is reading and rereading and interpreting all the big and small signals that are whirling about and that can’t be kept separate from the memories at all, and I wonder how on earth we keep track of any of it.

~ Siri Hustvedt, Memories of the Future (Simon & Schuster, March 19, 2019)


Notes: Portrait of Siri Hustvedt by Werner Pawlok

Comments

  1. Well, that was a bit of a mouth full….. And that‘s certainly something I wonder too…. How to keep track of…. (whatever and everything).

    I will send you a mail concerning an ongoing theme in our lives – a theme with a wagging tail and soft, soulful eyes, and long ears – THAT is another thing we never will totally keep track of memories, both memories had and future ones 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved the post. It’s interesting to observe yourself and others when you’re interacting in a group as you have described. You soon realise, if you’re sensitive to it, that what is unresolved in peoples’ histories, and in your own, is often projected on to others in a kind of communicative dance. I think a lot of conversation, or what passes for conversation, has much to do with trying to work out our own struggles. Maybe that’s a bit unfair and rather cynical, but it’s a feeling I often get.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. this post seemed to pick up speed and swirl around the more I read. kind of like the phenomenon described within its words. interesting. and yes, true, so much is carried with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great passage of awareness. And that just describes the PEOPLE in the room, not the myriad of other things that are happening at the same time: the tastes and smells and sounds…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Nan Heldenbrand Morrissette says:

    Holy crap, David. What a (pick one) terrifying… frightening… exciting… exhausting (the concept- not the writing)… utterly fabulous thing to read. Makes me want to forget coffee and just get to my little beach studio as fast as I can, so I can get a deep breath and prepare my head for the hours of solitude I need daily to grow and think and create and refuel in order to make my art. Although my own thoughts about people are along the same lines as today’s post, never could I have put the words together so perfectly. What a richness! What a brilliant light to reveal the vast panoply of lives affecting us! How the writer throws them at us all at once like punches to the gut! Overwhelming and enlightening at the same time! And of course, because your lovely emails are how I begin every day, you are, yourself, an important person-layer in my life. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • ahhh, too Kind Nan. And your statement: ” Although my own thoughts about people are along the same lines as today’s post, never could I have put the words together so perfectly.”

      Is EXACTLY how I felt reading this. Saying to Self, that’s me. But I could never pull this amazing string of words together. So impressive…

      Like

  6. Relax... says:

    Not something I’d ever dissected into wonder (there’s the beauty of writers!), but I couldn’t help thinking a dinner or meeting is like a post-sandbox sandbox — complications, now, but also the same ol’ hope of shared smiles.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reading this started with a black and white image in my mind. Then lighter intensity red seeped in. By the end there was a lot intense red all over.

    So so so beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Christie says:

    dizzying dance of willing guests within the confinement of a small NYC apartment…character study of co-mingle interplay, unlike the brine soaked uniformity of taste held and released from within a pickle jar…the atmosphere dense and some attendees glean from the weight of the conscious and unconscious emergence of palatable, pulse of life…some can pick up on what seems to be circulating past, presence and future, just floating, overlaying, expanding …Siri Hustvedt says “and all the visible information as well—faces that flush momentarily and tiny beads of sweat that form on upper lips and wrinkles that arrive on a face only in a smile, or the various pairs of eyes that appear cool and indifferent and other pairs that are alive with interest, or the same pair of eyes that seem far away one instant and focused the next” and I think of her image the way the lipstick is partially worn, wiped away and heavy in the wrinkle creases after a long day of a book tour and how Werner Pawlok, Polaroid of SH stands out as her eye’s depth encircles such intelligent mystery…(PS:) other of Werner Pawlok images of people of literature photos include his trademark manipulate of the eyes

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Now THAT is a sentence – well the second one, anyway! So much said and such a wonderful awareness of his surroundings. To not only be aware, but to be able to share it thus. I am a tad jealous.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Answer is slow and steady not rushing in blindly

    Liked by 2 people

  11. That was wonderful. The intensity of it all and the way it builds and builds and seems to widen out to fill the room and then the final thought at the end…like a gasp of air to finish it off. Just perfect David!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

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