Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mira Bartók

From a Q & A with Mira Bartók, author of the new memoir, The Memory Palace:

How difficult was it to write your memoir? When it ends, your memory is still a problem for you.

It was really hard. It was hard in a lot of ways. I think it was probably the hardest project I'll ever do, or will have done, but you never know. It was hard emotionally sometimes, but also in terms of memory. In some ways it was not as difficult as people might think, because I kept years of journals and so a lot events from the past or interactions with people I might have forgotten about, I had written down, and I also kept sketchbooks, so I kept track of things I saw. In that sense there were a lot of things that I could go to my little archives for, but as far as remembering what I wrote each day--that was a challenge because I'd write something, and if I let more than a day slip by without going back to it, I'd no memory of writing that thing. It's like every day was Groundhog Day. Until I got a system down I would basically start rewriting a chapter and not know I was doing it, even if it was only the next day. It was very frustrating and upsetting. I would misplace things, and for someone who likes (and needs) some semblance of order, it was not fun. So I ended up constructing a cabinet with slots for chapters and labeled every drawer, sort of like a cabinet of curiosities. I thought, what can I use from my past life in museums in ordering this book, so that's what I did, and every single time I wrote something I printed it out, or if I wrote notes by hand or came across an image I wanted to use, before the day was over I placed it all in the slot for that chapter. And the other thing I did--before I went to bed every single night, and I'm talking about every single night and I'm not kidding--I went over every chapter in my head, every quote that I started the chapter with, and tried to remember who wrote the quote, tried to remember how I began the chapter and how I ended the chapter and tried to remember what little snippet from my mother's diary that I used. That was after I had finished my first draft; I very rarely remembered all these things before I went to sleep, but I tried. I had to create systems in order to remember. And I was more interested in the mis-remembrance of things, so I checked a lot of things with my own past experiences in journals, but I didn't want to go around and interview everyone I knew. I already doubted myself enough, so I thought, why not ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue