The Stitching Together of One’s Memories As A Form Of Critical Reading

A still from the 2010 adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go"*
A still from the 2010 adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go”*

“This was all a long time ago so I might have some of it wrong; but my memory of it is that my approaching Tommy that afternoon was part of a phase I was going through around that time – something to do with compulsively setting myself challenges – and I’d more or less forgotten all about it when Tommy stopped me a few days later.“ (13, italics mine)

In chapter two it becomes apparent that the correct – see ethical – reading of one’s own ‘timeline’ bears the same sort of burden as it does for the characters in Heinlein’s novella: it’s an act of stitching together one’s own narrative, to the end of – the end of what? Making sense of the now? Or the “me” in the now? *** The answer to this question seems to be open-ended (hard to articulate), because of the fact that it is the author-character’s voice, whom we read as having some form of authority precisely because she is the narrator, only in the case of this book it is not presented as an omniscient narrator, but one that allows for the constant problematization of the narrative and therefore, because it is a personal memoir, of her own self, her own understanding of herself or the processes by which she has been – and is therefore still being – subjectivated, all via and by virtue of her memory and the fact that she is always ‘moving’…

*

In the third chapter, the aforementioned act of stitching together one’s memories is presented as a form of critical reading.

The main character, Kathy, has been closely watching the progress of a fellow student named Tommy, who has been exhibiting behavioral difficulties, when she notices a certain abating of his temper tantrums.  Curious as to the reason, she organizes a meet-up, so that she can ask him about it.  In the scene that follows it becomes clear that Kathy – herself actually memoir-narrating the whole thing, remember – through scrutinizing Tommy’s narrative – a narrative that involves a certain disclosure as to the character’s reality (and therefore, the novel) – seems to be doing through said scrutiny what she’s been doing throughout the text of the book: seeking to understand things through a correct remembering of what has happened and what’s been said.  What is interesting here is that because it is a sort of second-order ‘reading’ (Kathy remembering how Kathy was helping Tommy remember), and is therefore not burdened with the mantle of narrator, it allows us to see a bit more of the questions asked above ***: Tommy’s situation has allowed, via the help of Kathy’s scrutiny, the opening up of certain questions regarding the nature of the children’s lives.  It hasn’t given them much more information, persay, than they already know (the text allows this “But we have been taught all about that” page 29), but it manages to introduce a further and equally mysterious problematization into the narrative, one that gives it a lean forward, that further sucks the reader towards possible answers, but also causes a shift in orientation for the character-subject.  This is the difference between Kathy the narrator and Kathy the character: it lets us see that remembering as a mode of critical reading can work to orient us not only toward the ‘now,’ but toward the future.

* that I haven’t seen.

Reminder: these are notes from my reading of the text, as I work feverishly to complete a paper before the semester begins.

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