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222Fourth Genre suspect is a natural reticence, Ms. WUcox doesn't expUcidy engage these questions. Instead, scattered through the text are certain interesting moments. In the middle of the book, Ms. Wilcox quotes from a journal she kept: "I have learned that to move with any speed at aU is to make mistakes."This sentence gives us a sUght shock, and we reaUze that the sensibility behind A Degree of Mastery is profoundly different from that of the dominant entertainment economy. This book advocates in its quiet way for a set of cultural values that run counter to our throwaway culture: to do something weU is very difficult. The Yu-Lu Stories were mined by subsequent Zen masters for their moments ofinsight. These moments were eventuaUy coUected together into the great koan coUections. Ms. Wilcox reminds us that there are stiU teachers among us with great integrity and wisdom. Reviewed by Karl Pohrt The Business of Memory: The Art of Remembering in an Age of Forgetting Charles Baxter, editor Graywolf Forum Three Graywolf Press, 1999 174 pages, paper, $16.00 Recently, in an AnnArbor restaurant, writer and critic Charles Baxter overheard two women conversing about memory. One of the women asked, "How much memory have you got?"The conversation then moved toward a discussion of hard drives and storage capacity. For Baxter, who writes of this encounter in "Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age," the penultimate essay in The Business ofMemory, that conversation signals a confusion in our idea ofmemory: what he calls a "conflation" between data (the facts and figures we might very weU store in our computers) and "our memories ," experiences preserved in narrative form. Data can of course be "stored" in our own minds as weU as in computer files. But the more private narrative—and often imagistic—memories of our past experiences are not so much stored as they are continuously unfolding. It is in part to addressjust such a phüosophical, complicated, and nuanced concept of memory that Baxter edited this coUection. Viewing memory as complex and ever-evolving is at least as old as St. Augustine's Confessions. But our increasingly speed- and computer-obsessed culture seems to keep pubUc Book Reviews223 dialogue as shaUow and technical as a debate about who has the bigger hard drive. In its focus on the many ways that human memory does not resemble computer memory, The Business of Memory is a timely, necessary book, provocative and new even as it recasts some of our most long held ideas. The book is also a response to the increased interest in memoirs over the past few years. The writers in this coUection bypass the reductive controversy that so often devolves out of the popular press's coverage of"the memoir boom." Rather than get mired in Dickensian arguments about fact and other data, they draw upon their own practice as writers—and interrogators of memory—to address more deeply phüosophical issues. They consider, for example, the nature ofsubjectivity, the human need for storyteUing, the Unk between memory and identity, the separation ofprivate memory and experience from pubUc realms, the isolation caused by computer- and travelbased communities, and the ethics and aesthetics ofstoryteUing.What's more, these essayists summon narrative craft—not reams of data—to make their case. The Business ofMemory, which comprises Graywolf Forum Three, recognizes that memory and art are the true terrain ofmemoir, and that moreover , memory and narration are the stuff ofUfe itself. Poet and memoirist Michael Ryan's "TeU Me a Story" is one of several essays in this coUection that invites rereading. It is a heartfelt, philosophical , and finely wrought essay on storyteUing's role in identity. Ryan opens with a narrative about the bedtime stories his father used to invent for him, stories of"Greenies," tiny subterranean people he claimed to have encountered during his own childhood. As a child, Ryan loved these stories, in which his father cast himselfas a questing hero. But his father saved the stories for special occasions, and to earn them, Ryan had to promise to beUeve they were true. These chüdhood moments became lessons in negative capability , for in promising to believe the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1544-1733
Print ISSN
1522-3868
Pages
pp. 222-226
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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