Monday, January 06, 2014

Reader's Diary #1078- Jorges Luis Borges: Funes, His Memory

Despite those wacky Kids in the Hall "Premise Beach" sketches, I'm a little wary of premises and I'll blame Jodi Picoult for that. Perhaps unfairly, as I've only read one of her books, to me Jodi Picoult is the queen of the premise. Unfortunately I don't think her writing matches her ambition. But yesterday, while reading Siva Vaidhyanathan's The Googlization of Everything, I was once more enthralled with a premise. Vaidhyanathan describes a story by Jorges Luis Borges called, "Funes, His Memory" in which the titular Funes cannot forget. Anything. For those of us who struggle daily with misplaced car keys, iPhones, remote controls, pants, this sounds like a blessing. However, for Funes, it's a nightmare. He becomes preoccupied with meaningless tasks such as creating an entirely different numbering system that forgoes any patterning. As Vaidhyanathan helps explain, Funes actually becomes stupider in a way. While it seems counter-intuitive that remembering everything would make someone dumber instead of smarter, forgetting is a part of learning. Because of our memory limitations, we compensate by categorizing, classifying, and cataloging information and it's those processes that make us smarter by forcing us to contemplate the meaning. I won't lie, "Funes, His Memory" is a bit of a downer, especially if you were expecting some sort of X-Men type of super-mutation, but fascinating nonetheless. Writing that matches its premise.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

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