The Warped and Faulty Reservoir…

One of my favorite quotations from John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley is:

“… memory is at best a faulty, warpy reservoir.”

How often am I reminded of this while reading.  I’ll stumble upon a reference to someone or something I have read about or read, but so long ago (and sometimes not even that long ago!) that, frustratingly, I can remember almost nothing about it.  The book on Lincoln I just read mentions a 1860 campaign biography of Lincoln, written by William Dean Howells.

That name was familiar to me, but it took a few moments to remember from where.  I actually read – probably more than fifteen years ago – a novel of his called The Rise of Silas Lapham.  Sadly I remember very little about this book, other than it was kind of a ‘rags to riches’ story about a man who earns a fortune in the paint business (by discovering a ‘paint well’ on his property).  I remember very little of the details of the book, and this rather makes me wonder if a lot of the reading I do is a ‘waste of time’ if I don’t retain it any better.

My dad was a teacher, and always stressed the importance of ‘review’ in the learning process.  I suspect this is what is lacking in my case.  Being blessed with a ‘competent’ memory though not a remarkable one, I need to bolster it somehow.  I was also reminded of this while reading the Lincoln book (covered in my last post) that Lincoln reportedly would not just read something, he would read it and re-read it a few times until he “got it.”  Once he had it, he rarely lost it.  He described it as though his memory were like a piece of steel – very had to make a mark upon, but once marked, also very hard to remove the mark.  I think reading books on my iPad may end up making remembering easier for me.  It is so quick and painless to review the sections that I’ve highlighted or noted, I should have no excuse for not revisiting these books later.

How about you?  Do you remember much/anything/everything about books you’ve read long ago?  I’m curious…