The * Fact * of * Memory
May 16, 2022 § 4 Comments
By Dinty W. Moore
The challenge Aaron Angello set for himself is daunting, maybe a little insane, borderline brilliant, and truly fascinating. For roughly four months, Angello woke at 5 am, brewed himself a cup of coffee, carried his cup to a small writing desk, and wrote – one per day, in order – a word from Shakespeare’s 114-word 29th Sonnet.
One word. The word “the,” for instance, or “of,” or “bootless,” or “possessed.”
He sat with the word a while, and then, “Once I felt I was filled with that word—as if the word filled my body, not just my mind—I began to write.”
The fact is, a single word can take you anywhere. The mind works that way. The word “Beweep,” for instance, a very Shakespearean word, leads Angello to imagine a Gallery of Forgotten Words, “pile after pile of bodkins and blunderbusses, jolly-nobs and junts, lacerts and lam’s grass.”
But The Fact of Memory is not a book about Shakespeare, or even just a book about words. It is a book about how the mind works. About memory. About rumination. Fabrication, And narrative structure.
The sonnet is deconstructed word by word, and then built back up again, to find stories Shakespeare himself had never imagined.
The simple word “of” appears only once in Shakespeare’s sonnet, and Angello’s brief chapter – the book, essentially, is flash nonfiction, with a robust lyric bent – imagines a vintage movie, a projected backdrop, two actors, a scratchy old 78 rpm record, skipping on the song lyric “-ve of you,” “-ve of you,” “-ve of you,” the way our minds skip over and over a remembered detail, an old song, looking for truth maybe, or just a story, or what may pass for a story, what may pass for a truth.
The way images break apart, reform themselves into narratives, remembered, felt deeply, but ultimately not real.
The 29th Sonnet does not use the word “memory” anywhere, but the word “remembered” appears once, as in “For they sweet love remembered such wealth brings / That then I scorn to change my state with kings.”
Angello remembers his own sweet love, youthful love, a rooftop in New York City, jealousies, guilt, and failure. No wealth, or kings. It is a different time, a different thinker’s thoughts.
He remembers detail after disconnected detail of this tragic past love, then writes, “But this isn’t a confession. I’m making all of this up.”
Which we sometimes do when we reconstruct memory. When we try to reconstruct our truths, word by stubborn word.
The fact of memory is not simple. The Fact of Memory is complex.
Dinty W. Moore is the editor of Brevity.