Montage and Palimpsest

Originally published on 23 January 2012

To all of my reader(s):  Thanks for putting up with my growing pains in this blog. Today, in addition to not yet writing this post, I also managed to not get a sidebar on this blog, nor properly record the soundfile of the first chapter. (If you’re reading this post and there are sidebars, it either means that I finally finally figured it out, or the cat gave up on watching me bash my head into the keyboard and pushed me away so she could do it herself. My laptop doesn’t have a mouse so she doesn’t get distracted while she codes.) But by Wednesday, 25 January, you will see Chapter One of This Book Still Needs A Title Besides “WITNESS” Because I’m Sick Of People Saying, ‘Hey, Did You Know That There Was A Movie Called That Back In The Eighties?’ So yes, comments and suggestions will also be entertained regarding that.

Today, though, all I have to tell you about, since my review of Literary Genre Fiction in General, and the amazing yet somewhat long-winded The Four Fingers of Death in Particular, won’t be ready for prime time until at least tomorrow, is the concept of ‘palimpsest.’ That is, of course, a piece of parchment that has been scraped clean of its original text so it can be written on again, though pieces of the old text are often visible still. Gore Vidal titled his autobiography Palimpsest for this very reason. But my experiences, especially as related to What The Hell Am I Going To Call This Thing, are a little darker. Today, I was driving around Buckhead and Midtown Atlanta, lost in a haze of rain and fog and listening to college radio (which I still sometimes call ‘Alternative-Alternative,’ since the label ‘Alternative’ was ruined in the 90s by AOR programmers and ClearChannel Execs wanting to sell kids what they wanted to sell them while still making them think it was ‘different’) and I realized that that is one of the points of this manuscript.

Horror, or dread, isn’t always the fear of death, or destruction, or pain, or waiting in line, or losing your place in the papers that you’ve been alphabetizing for the last hour. Sometimes, horror can be remembering. Sometimes, a random thought or sound or smell will hit your brain, and before you can stop it, it’s drilling down through a stack of memories and throwing fragments up in all directions. Of course, your brain doesn’t quite know how to deal with all of this, so it puts them together any which way… something that happened last week is remembered by a ‘you’ that’s wearing the clothes you wore in Junior High, while listening to a song that came out when you were twenty. It’s a jarring, harrowing feeling, especially when a few of the memories, or fragments, are things that you don’t want to remember, things that you forgot for a reason.

And of course, these thoughts never come completely to mind. Only a corner, or an edge, of these memories is immediately apparent, and that little bit is just tantalizing enough for you to start unearthing the rest of the memory, brushing away the dust of similar thoughts and related events.

And by the time you realize what you’ve remembered, or what you’re about to remember, it’s too late to shove it back beneath the dust and detritus of years gone by. It’s in your conscious memory now, and you will spend the rest of the day, or of the week, or of your life, remembering it.

And when you realize that this is nothing new, that this is not just happening for the first time, but has happened many, many times… and when you remember that your present self is created by your memories and experiences, and you are, in essence, looking at your mental DNA, your source code, your soul…

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