Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Unforgettable!

I have a really bad memory. Or, for a more positive spin, I could say my memory is very selective. I don’t forget people’s names. But I do forget what my mind, of its own accord, seems to consider trivial. And I’m not proud of this fact.

I recently walked into my mother’s house and picked up an ornament.
“Oh, that’s nice!” I said.
“Don’t you recognise it?” she asked.
“No.”
“You gave it to me for my birthday!”

That’s one example of how embarrassing a 'selective' memory can be. Another is that I had absolutely no recollection of organising the graduation ball at the end of my BA course. Years later, a friend brought it up, remembering every detail. I had no idea what she was talking about.

It seems gifts and occasions stand little chance of being filed in my brain. But I thought I was better with the BIG STUFF.

I used to write weekly art reviews for a London listings magazine. Because they aren't recent, and obviously aren’t fiction, I decided not to include these credits in my query/cover letter to agents. If I could have dropped them in elegantly -- then maybe. But there was really no connection.

Until yesterday!


When out of the blue, I suddenly remembered with complete clarity, an event that had inspired the main character in my novel. (She's a teenage journalist.)

I would usually suggest to my editor the exhibitions I wanted to review. But sometimes, she would assign me. On this occasion, and for the first time ever, I had to review both a lavish coffee-table tome, published by Thames & Hudson, and its tie-in exhibition.

Off I went to the press viewing, toting the tome. While the book was glossy, its content was predictable, and the exhibition -- mediocre. I started to feel anxious. The book AND exhibition were the work of a very grand man; highly regarded in his field. How on earth could I write about this when I couldn't praise it? What slant should I take?

Then it got worse.

The very grand man was there, in a side room, and wished to meet the press. Six of us shuffled in, and sat on plastic chairs. He sat before us, a copy of the tome plonked on the table in front of him. A female assistant, who never spoke, hovered nervously behind. The very grand man didn’t smile or chat about the book. He just sat there, looking stern. I started to shake. I felt like a ten-year-old, in the office of an angry Edwardian headmaster.

A couple of brave souls asked a couple of questions, which received condescending replies. One stood up, and began flicking through the tome. We all followed. It was a relief to simply move. The One made small talk while drifting towards the door. Two minutes later, all six of us escaped from the room. The only words I had said to the very grand man: "Thank you."

I did manage to write the review, quaking. Then, somewhere subconscious, it inspired a novel. And once the novel was written, the memory returned. Amazing!

I think my writing credits can now slot in quite nicely. But much more succinctly than this!!!

2 comments:

john said...

Maybe you block out situations that made you anxious. But that wouldn’t account for your mother’s present - would it?

Mary said...

You make a good point, John. And I LOVE giving presents to my Mum. I think the problem is I’m always thinking about the next thing; the future is more interesting than the past!

P.S. Thank you for the lovely card!!!