Kjell (kjellmikal) wrote,

the room of rememoir

There was once a memoir of such length and of such effect upon its readers that all who read it wrote memoirs of having read it. In time, several of the very best of these rememoirs came to be regarded like gems, prismatic reflections of the original memoir's light, deconstructing and refocusing it into a rainbow of subtle shades that resonated with the shifting hues of contemporary experience. Nearly all of these celebrated rememoirs contained the full text of the original, occasionally reemphasizing select passages and then sprawling into the authors' meditative mediations on how it felt for them to be a reader of those words, and why.

Thus, what was once an already massive tome had been reborn through the rememoir process into such a demand upon effort and attention, they were no longer just books, but "the books"—commitments no reader would undertake lightly. The differences in literary style and in perspective among the handful of rememoirists that had attained wide popularity were schismatic, to the point that it was exceedingly rare to find a reader that would choose to dedicate the time of their lives to reading more than one of the rememoirs. This was particularly so because the division of attention necessary to achieve such breadth of readership was seen as a fool's ambition: redundant, greedy and ultimately a folly leading to shallowness, rather than the depth of specialism.

As with the now-eclipsed original memoir, the rememoirs inspired all those who read them to write memoirs of having read them. Only upon finishing the reading of a rememoir was a member of society truly considered to have left childhood; adulthood began with the ritual task of writing one's own memoir of having read the rememoir. Writing these was understood as a lifelong project and primarily for the benefit of the writer, with no expectation of publication. In fact (exceptional circumstances aside) it was generally regarded as presumptuous, indecent and lacking in humility to publicly expose excerpts of ones rerememoir. To share parts of ones ongoing rerememoir was an act of intimacy, a socially vulnerable activity, reserved only for private situations between consenting adults.

What was the nature of the seed that bore all this fruit? What was it about the original memoir that gripped the attention of so many and compelled just as many to remake it as their own? This is a matter of opinion, to be sure, but I myself am not without a theory.

That the original memoir took the author so long to write that it became in large part a memoir of its own writing is, of course, hardly controversial. Besides this fact being quite obvious from the text itself, it has been corroborated by several historical sources which verify that nearly the entire adult life of the author was in fact devoted to writing the memoir. Further, the real-world experiences that serve as the grains around which the authorial pearl took shape were not particularly uncommon, nor extraordinary, by any account. That the day-to-day world of the author's life is made retrospectively exotic, mythic even, to people of today by virtue of its antiquity, few would dispute. The memoir's constant cultural recycling has worn it smooth as a river rock and given it a patina of universality near impossible to see the original apart from. But recall, that in the eyes of the handful of dominant rememoirists who time and society have elected to perpetuate, the original memoir was far less temporally displaced and yet it still compelled them so, absent any aura.

The minority of those in society who treat the original author's remembrances from childhood (falling off the bridge into the river, building the pyramid of snow, emancipating the rabbits from the hutch, etc) as transcendental events—those who ritually stage mass reenactments of these events—are people dismissed as fetishists and heretics against the centuries of literary theory that have built up around the major rememoirs. In my opinion too, they utterly miss the point.

What the original author truly achieved with the memoir that became a memoir of it's own writing, and beyond, was the extinction of the human voice and the revelation of once-hidden doors. To use the classical analogy, when a record played into a room is recorded and played back into that room and recorded again, ad infinitum, then what eventually comes to the fore is the natural resonance of the space. That, plus the particular quirks of the recording medium. To wit: When everyone has a mic and talks about what it sounds like in the room where everyone has a mic—they start to talk about room tone.

It was through experiential feedback that the memoirist had discovered the very boundaries of the conscious mind. The dimensions of its space having become manifest, the memoirist then proceeded to amplify and hone the artifacts of linguistics into a squall capable of piercing the newly-apparent mental walls. This is the culmination and final significance of the original memoir. An opinion of course, but one in which I am certainly not alone. What lies beyond the room of rememoir is the grand project that the rememoirists and all of us now as a people have collectively dedicated ourselves toward discovering. It must be our mantle, as the original memoirist was not able to tell us, for it is an irredeemable truth that the original memoir ends mid-sentence.

What is to be made of the sudden break after a lifetime of writing is naturally the heart of original speculation in the dominant rememoirs and the crossroads at which their interpretations splinter apart. What we do have, albeit filtered though the ages and of an apocryphal translucence that warps any hard certainty, are the several witnesses' accounts to corroborate the scene: a door to the room in which the author had been writing in seclusion, having ordered no disturbance and locked from the inside, and then three days later when the door was finally forced down, there lay the memoir, in the room with no one inside.


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