Romancing Memories by John Zunski
Posted by Krystal Larson at 11:16 AM Sunday, April 22, 2012
“If the eyes are the gateway to the soul
Our memories are its gatekeepers…”
So begins a poem that appears in my coming-of-age novel Cemetery Street. Shannie (pronounced Shane-ie) wrote it in narrator James Morrison’s birthday card, and like so many things about Shannie, its significance haunts him. So much that he recites the poem before her headstone. Was Shannie inferring that memories are the sentinels of the soul?
Your guess is as good as mine. I claim lack of expertise in the science of memory, but I have written a novel about romancing memories, so that qualifies me to pontificate about memory’s potential sappy nature.
I hear the romantics shouting: “How can you not be guilty?”
Maybe the answer is directly related to how much time one spends in the memory universe and how much energy is expended recalling them. There’s no denying their power, heck, memories define our identity. Isn’t that what Shannie was saying? If it was, in lies their danger.
- Your father cursed and threw things when he cranked on a wrench, so you have an
aversion to auto mechanics.
- You got a speeding ticket on Main Street, so every time you pass the location you tap your brakes and check your speed.
- You failed 7th grade English class and believed you could never write.
Suddenly, we’re in danger of being memory’s prisoner. James may be guilty as charged. On the other hand, maybe he’s a victim of circumstance and his obsession is a way not to relive the horror of a lost identity. (Plot hint… Plot hint… Plot hint…)
Here’s what James writes about regaining his memory:
“As I pen these words, I deal with the effects of what happened in the early fall of 1994. I forget things – I’ve learned that a short pencil is better than a long memory – and only come to cherished memories with the help of pictures or scents. Although playing with aromas is playing with fire. Certain smells trigger avalanches of uncontrollable memories: the smell of steak releases an onslaught of memories of my family; brewing coffee frees Shannie; burning leaves remind me of Count; cigar smoke evokes Russell and Main Street; burnt rubber takes me back to Atlantic City. The force of such memories paralyzes me. It’s as if my memories have me. It makes for a distracted lifestyle. Pictures are much safer, they aren’t the frayed edge of an unpredictable memory strand.”
In a sense, Cemetery Street is a memoir, but it’s the memoir of a fictional character, with fictional memories. So maybe that makes me an expert in fictional memories.
John, that’s all well and good, but you can’t tell me that Cemetery Street isn’t your memoir.
Well, yes I can. If it was, I would be on serious anti-depressants. I’m not saying there isn’t a memory or two woven into the story’s fabric. But I’m a prankster at heart and like to keep people guessing what is real and what is made up.
If you haven’t read Cemetery Street you’ll be missing out on the memory of characters that will stick with you long after the last page is read. Here’s your chance to win an e-copy. Though, you should keep some tissues handy. You’ve been warned!
Before I forget, this is what Shannie wrote in James’ Birthday card:
If our eyes are the gateway to the soul
Our memories are its gatekeepers
Out of memory comes meaning
Out of meaning – warmth
Out of warmth – Love
Out of Love – Us
Beyond anyone – I remember you.
Enter code PWJZ257V for a $5 discount on paperback.
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