Memory Amended

For today’s post, I’ve decided to mimic Perec’s writing process. I wrote about a fond memory of a place, then revisited that place to check the accuracy, inserting footnotes where I needed to amend the facts. I found this project to be a fun test of my memory. Like Perec, I made errors and later corrected them. I’m curious what people will think of the photograph I included. Will people perceive the photograph differently once they read the footnotes? How much can we really trust our memory, and how much can we trust personal accounts of photographs?

Here is my original memory, amended by footnotes after revisiting the place I wrote about:

As a student worker at Peabody Library, I have the privilege of sometimes being allowed to go down to the bottom floor of the stacks, which is roped off by caution tape. I say it’s a privilege because I love being around old things, especially old books. The bottom floor of stacks stores, among other things, books that are too old and tattered to be on the shelves any longer. Going into the basement for the first time, I did not really consider what might be down there. Walking down the short flight of white steps, I held onto the white railing and began to perceive the smell of old books.[1] Soon, the smell was confirmed when I reached the bottom of the stairs and turned to my right. All around me were old books with yellowing pages. I picked one up – the publishing date cited the book as coming from the 1800s. At this point, I’ll admit that I took a break from work and picked up several more books. The youngest book I found dated from the 1930s.[2] The books were mostly dark colors, like maroon, forest green, and mustard. Most books were typed with a Victorian-style text. After lingering for a while, I finally did my job, which was to retrieve a blue box. I went back up the stairs feeling like I had discovered a romantic secret, and I planned to return again the next chance I got.[3]

 [1] Actually the steps are gray, in imitation of stone. The railings are not white, but black. The basement smells more like dust than old books, especially on the staircase. Once I start handling the books however, I can smell the old paper and ink.

[2] Going back down the second time, the youngest book I happened to pick up was dated from the 1950s and there were a few from the 1940s. I’m not sure if I just happened to pick up newer books this time around, or if I falsely remember the books being older than they were. That would have better agreed with my romantic vision of library basement full of old books.

[3] Returning to the basement was hardly romantic. As is seen in the picture, rather than a quaint Victorian basement, it is quite dusty and littered with modern appliances (cardboard boxes, etc.). That first discovery left an impression that the whole basement was as lovely as the books I had found.


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