Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

I read this book by Kim Edwards and am not entirely sure what to think. It was recommended to me by many people, Vanessa told me it was so boring she couldn't get through it, and a few people have been very critical of it.

The book is a story about a man who gives away his daughter because she has Down's Syndrome and the nurse who raises her and how this one event affects them and their families.

The doctor becomes quite interested in photography and I enjoyed the descriptions of his art: "This is what he yearned to capture on film: these rare moments where the world seemed unified, coherent, everything contained in a single fleeting image. A spareness that held beauty and hope and motion - a kind of silvery poetry, just as the body was poetry in blood and flesh and bone." I love photography myself, though recently I have mostly been taking bar shots of my friends and I looking goofy. But I have also taken photos that have been intended to be about so much more than just the image itself, to say something about the world.

"David watched her go, trying to fix this moment - the vivid backpack, her hair swinging against her back, Jack's free hand reacing out to grab leaves and sticks - forever in his mind. It was futile, of course; he was forgetting things with every step she took. Sometimes his photographs amazed him, picrures he came across stored in old boxes or folders, moments he could not remember even when he saw them: himself laughting with people whose names he had forgotten, Paul wearing an expression David ad never seen in life."
Memory is such an interesting thing, as are the things we choose to keep as reminders of our lives. Moving every year or two allows for a lot more introspective going through of what you own, what surrounds you. And the last time I went home a reconnection with an old friend prompted me to look through childhood photos. Facebook is also a blast from the past, as I seem to have reconnected in this most unusual internet way with many people I went to elementary and high school with. It is very interesting what memories photos can elicit and which photos seem to come with no associations at all.

"Norah glanced at the boxes of photographs, wanting to take that young woman she had been by the arm and shake her gently. Keep going, she wanted to tell her. Don't give up. Your life will be fine in the end."
So, so true.

In an interview with the author, she says: "I also remember being annoyed, more than once, when my friends' need to get a photo right interfered with the moment the photo was meant to capture... How did the presence of the photographer change the nature of the moment? What was gained and what was lost by having the eye of the camera present?" An interesting thought. Certainly, lately in Seoul I have been the official photographer of the group, and I have always loved to take tons of photos of absolutely everything. Who knows how the presence of a camera might be changing events.

A related article from Oh My News.

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