Life Sentences

I can’t bring myself to write anything without first acknowledging the horrible events that took place in a quiet Pittsburgh neighborhood Saturday morning. Two police officers responding to a “routine domestic disturbance call” were gunned down as was a third officer coming to their aid. I will post more extensively about the shootings and how they touched me Wednesday on Working Stiffs.

For now and for here, let me report on a much more pleasant topic.

Friday evening, I battled the traffic (why must they tear up every single stretch of highway I must travel, all at the same time?) to head into Mystery Lovers Bookshop for Laura Lippman’s latest visit.


I am a HUGE fan of Laura’s writing. I want to write like her when I grow up. (Okay, okay, so she and I are the same age. Let’s not get picky.) But I confess, I’ve been known to keep a notebook at my side when I’m reading one of her books so I can jot down some of the wonderful word choices she uses.

What the Dead Know is one of my top all-time favorite novels. Her newest, Life Sentences looks like it might attain that status, too.

I’m also a big fan of Laura’s talks. She always leaves me with something to think about. This time, her topic was memory. Since her main character in Life Sentences is a memoir writer and since there have been some controversial memoirs in the news lately, the question of just how reliable our memories are sparks my interest. Add to that, my own family experience of the fleeting aspect of memory (Dad had Alzheimer’s and my cousin still suffers memory loss as a result of traumatic brain injury), and you can understand my fascination with the subject.

But her talk went beyond the obvious. She shared a personal story involving her husband and one of his memories…that turned out to be totally false. And he wasn’t intentionally elaborating or adding colorful details. He honestly thought he was remembering the event correctly.

Ever had an argument with a friend, family member, or spousal equivalent in which you KNEW something happened one way and they just KNOW it happened another?

Laura said that she’s decided, unless she has evidence of being right or wrong (a photograph of what was on the shirt she wore that day, as an example), she isn’t going to fight about memories any more.

How many arguments could you avoid if you simply confessed that you just don’t remember it the same way as the other person? Maybe you’re right and maybe you’re wrong, but unless you have primary evidence to solve the dispute, don’t argue about it.

This happens to me all the time. And hearing Laura talk about it and share her experiences came as something of a relief. Maybe neither I nor my family members is coming down with Alzheimer’s. Maybe we just cannot trust our memories.

Check out Life Sentences here.

Comments

Joyce said…
Very interesting post.

I know someone who remembers things that never happened. At first, I thought it was me not remembering, but then someone else noticed it, too. It's really weird.
Annette said…
Joyce, I have a friend who remembers things way different than I do, but her version is much funnier. I used to think she just did some creative embellishment for the comic value, but now I think she really believes her version.

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