#332: “From the Table of My Memory I’ll Wipe Away All Trivial Fond Records” – Recall and Opinion in GAD


Discussing a book we’ve both read in preparation for another episode of The Men Who Explain Miracles, Dan made reference to some key event in the narrative that I simply did not remember…and this got me thinking: how much of a novel do you have to recall in order to be able to have an opinion on it?  And in a plot-heavy undertaking like GAD, should you be expected to remember more, or less?

I have previous here.  It emerged in the comments somewhere on this blog that there is a shooting towards the end of what I have called the greatest novel of detection of all time that I do not remember.  Equally, were you to ask me to recall any detail of the plot, actions, characters, or motive of, say, E. Charles Vivian’s Evidence in Blue (1938) I’d be stumped without that there review of mine…and even then, it’s hazy (there’s a bit with an amusing railway porter where someone gets on or off a train, or is hit by a train — I appreciate those are very different things).  Given my admitted flaws in recollection, do my opinions of either of these books stand up?

I do okay in the broad strokes of genre and detail: I’m not conflating Enid Blyton and Raymond Chandler, nor am I infuriated that no-one in St. Mary Mead seems to use their mobile phones or think of looking up anyone’s suspicious past on the interwebs.  I have Fundamental Recall — the basic level of operation and contextual appreciation required to make the task of reading a book in the present a non-arduous task — sorted, but I think that’s a low bar.  Slightly higher, I don’t recall every element of every page that passes in front of my eyes: I read over 100 books a year, including several long-running and involved multi-character SF undertakings where it is rather important to recall the gist of the previous 650-page tome before commencing the next one, and some stuff will of course get lost.

My question concerns the fact that — as, I’m hoping with, like, everyone — it’s between those two extremes where I go awry; it doesn’t concern me, forgetting is what we do, but I’m interested because many of us go online or go to book groups and have heated discussions about books we’ve read, loved…and probably forgotten a solid 15% of before even sitting down to talk about it.

My good friend Brad always makes me feel this very keenly whenever he writes about any Agatha Christie novel.  He’ll graciously disdain “Well, I’m not totally clear on the details, but…” and then give a note-perfect recap of every character (by name!), every relationship, every meaningful clue, every red herring, and tie it all off with the coup de grace of the guilty party’s key mistake.  Meanwhile, I can remember the general setting — archaeological dig, dentist’s office, aeroplane, etc — possibly the details of the crime therein — a man repeats the dinner at which his wife(?) was killed several years before only for someone else to die in the same circumstances, say — and typically some aspect of either the mechanics or, broadly, who the killer is — someone impersonating someone, usually — …and that’s it.


Me, after every Christie post Brad writes.

At best, I retain a general impression of a book once it’s read: I liked this, I hated the verbosity of that, the central misdirection of this is genius, hairy Aaron that detective is a moron.  A certain amount of stacking the deck means that I can be reasonably sure I enjoyed something, because if there’s a book I read that I didn’t enjoy I typically pass it on; thus a glance over my bookshelves broadly incorporates only those books I liked (the few exceptions — where, say, I’m keeping something only to complete a set of an author’s work — really stick out in my brain).  I know I really enjoyed Christie’s Murder on the Links (1923), but apart from it concerning Poirot and a rival detective competing in the investigation of a man found dead in a golf bunker wearing his father’s overcoat I remember staggeringly little else about it (there’s a shed at some point, and, uh…here endeth the lesson).

I’m not unduly worried, and I’m not confessing to anything — it’s hardly as if my reviews are full of pretend recall because the details fly out my head the instant I’m done, and in my discussions online with my better-informed others I frequently have to hold my hands up and say “Well, I’m not too clear on the details, but I seem to remember…”.  I guess I’m just curious: the types of novels I read and discuss are usually heavy on plot, and so how much can one reasonably expect to forget and yet still discuss or defend such a book in any meaningful way?  I imagine most of us have had that experience of rereading a book we thought was brilliant/terrible and discovered it’s actually terrible/brilliant, so how do you feel when that happens?

In short, do we just accept that we’re going to be hazy on the details, and that the plot-heavy structure gives us enough of an impression to hang our flawed opinions on?  Or should we — because of the intricate nature of some of the books under consideration — be more mindful of how much/little we know, or set a termination date past which we gallantly decline to comment in any depth?  Also: Ben, if you’re reading this, I’ve finished The Problem of the Wire Cage and emailed you some thoughts…if you’re able, we should get on with discussing it before I forget everything!

48 thoughts on “#332: “From the Table of My Memory I’ll Wipe Away All Trivial Fond Records” – Recall and Opinion in GAD

  1. This is something I can easily identify with. In the past I used to try to cram in as much material as possible, reading as fast as I could and aiming for some ill-defined notion of becoming a “well read” type, capable of speaking with authority about the vast swathe of literature I had absorbed – can’t imagine now who I thought was going to be listening, but anyway.
    The effect was twofold, and wholly negative. Firstly, I simply was not enjoying the reading process and concentrating on some vague internal quota system more than anything else. Secondly, I was going through so many books and stories that is was impossible to maintain any type of recall beyond the most general, and sometimes not even that!

    However, Once I became aware of this I immediately began to take it easier, to try relaxing with books instead of competing with them in some kind of insane race with time. Like you, what I’d ended up with were largely impressions; I knew that I’d liked or disliked various works but was frequently only able to say why. One of the first benefits I discovered then was the joy of rereading – I nearly felt like I’d never need to read another new book again! OK, that’s a slight exaggeration but there were plenty of titles (and not all of them from all that long before) that were essentially fresh to me. The other boon for me was the realization that the more leisurely pace I’d adopted meant that some stuff I’d dismissed and disliked was actually a lot better, sometimes significantly so.

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    • This is especially interesting, Colin, as my period of high-volume reading was undertaken with almost completely the opposite aim: when I was about 13 or 14 I just suddenly got this cimplete bug for reading, and would read absolutely anything entirely indiscriminately…most of which I look back now and realise was complete junk, the total opposite of being “well read” (whatever, as you imply, that means). I genre-hopped, picked up popular bestsellers that should in no way have been my thing (I read Bridget Jones’ Diary twice because my teenage brain didn’t get what all the fuss was about…!), and steadfastly avoided thick, heavy-bound, important-seeming “classics” because they didn’t striek me as any fun (having now read a a bunch, most of them still don’t).

      It didn’t occur to me to actually enjoy reading for quite some time: I struggled through countless dirge-filled pages almost out of a sort of sacerdotal conviction about reading per se. In a way, this has helped accentuate my insistence now on my reading being fun, and something I choose to do because it brings me an element of relaxation, and element of stimulation, some challenge, and a way of learning about uncommon and extinct practices (where else could I pick up so much about domestic arrangements in the 1930s while also challenging my ingenuity?!). It’s only since then, as you say, that I’ve really come to appreciate the quality of what I read, over the fact of simply reading.

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      • It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of enjoying what one reads. While this would appear to be stating the bleedin’ obvious, it’s something which is so very easy to forget. My own experience as both a hapless student and then as a hapless teacher made it abundantly clear that being forced, or at least feeling under an obligation, to read something is, through the contrariness of human nature, highly likely to result in a reaction against either the text in question or (even worse) the act of reading in itself.

        I remember being, in diplomatic terms, seriously underwhelmed when I read Rex Stout’s The League of Frightened Men, and then having an absolute blast with it when I reread it some years later. Why the different reaction? Quite simply, that first reading was undertaken a a point when I was looking to that aforementioned, but then unacknowledged, quota I’d developed for myself. Without being fully aware of it I was in the process of thinking ahead to the next book I’d already lined up for myself and thus in a hurry to finish Stout’s novel, almost before I’d started it.

        It took me a number of years to admit to myself how preposterous this situation was, but I feel I’ve gained much more from my reading ever since.

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          • I remain eternally thankful that I was not in the half of my year that was required to read Lord of the Flies in (ahem) high school — goddamn, I love that book (at least, I think I do…).

            Poor old Animal Farm, though. I’ll never be able to look it in the eye ever again.

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        • That idea of not getting too far ahead of onself is part of the reason I despair sometimes when I see the size of my TBR and acknowledge how poor my impulse control is where books are concerned. There is, always, the background idea of just how books remain to be gotten through, and the tempting thing is to rush to get on to all the other ones I’m anticipating. But, yeah, slow and steady wins; I’d rather take my time enjoying 100 books a year than rush and barely remember 180.

          Crikey, we sound like a pair of old farts, don’t we?

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          • Yes, but then again as I’m inching towards my half century – actually I think racing would be more apt but I prefer the idea of inching – I am closing in inexorably on old fartdom.
            By the way, 100 books in a year is an awful lot as far as I’m concerned and the very idea of 180 is utterly insane! I think I managed something like 45 last year and was very chuffed with myself.

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            • Well, the number of books I read in a year is only as high as it is every so often I blitz through some disappointingly forgettable modern SF just for a change of pace. Sometimes, reading something with the intention of it not being any good is quite the palate-cleanser.


            • Well quite. I have some early Colin Forbes, Clive Cussler and some classic sci-fi and western writing I plan to add into my personal mix this year.


            • I got a Colin Forbes book for Christmas, as it happens — having disdained Cussler as an heir to Ludlum (really, Cussler writes the most disgustingly awful shit in my opinion), someone recommended Forbes, and followed up by getting me what they consider an emblematic book. Will be interesting to see how the two compare, though of course it’s massively unlikely I’ll write about it on here…


            • Cussler is, for the most part, but I do like to dip into the earlier stuff (which he appeared to actually write himself) from time to time. Early Forbes is readable – not what you could term good, but readable – and yes, I can see the Ludlum comparison. Can I ask which book you got?


            • From what I remember (ha!) it’s mid-range, typical enough of his stuff and should give a good idea of his stories. His books from around the mid-1990s became pretty poor – there was always something of the formula about them – same characters doing broadly similar things in plots that are all essentially just variations on a theme – but the later ones are just downright weak.


            • there was always something of the formula about them – same characters doing broadly similar things in plots that are all essentially just variations on a theme

              Find me an author about whom this is not true, Colin!


            • True, and I wasn’t using it as a major criticism as much as an observation. Anyway, formula (when it works or appeals) isn’t a bad thing. Give the book a go and see how Forbes’ formula works for you. If you enjoy this then you should be fine with most of the books in the Tweed series from, say, Terminal through to by Stealth, give or take. I think it was from around that time, or maybe the next book, that a decline starts to become apparent.


            • Oh, dude, I was being facetious, don’t see any criticism of you in there — I’m a Ludlum fan, so an international intrigue formula is the exact kind of thing I go for when it’s done well.

              Appreciate the pointer on the range of titles, too, many thanks. These sorts of authors do tend to be like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, eh?!

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            • Don’t worry, you weren’t coming across as critical, quite the opposite. And I do agree that the word “formula” has assumed a very negative connotation, and it’s good to point this out and – it’s similar to the way “genre movie” is sometimes (frequently?) used to put the boot into certain films.

              I’d be curious to see what you make of Forbes – his reputation came in for a huge kicking due to the last half a dozen or so novels.


            • Well, it’s unlikely (I imagine) that I’ll be able to swing a Fornbes review on here; but when I’m done I’ll let you know one way or another. Great to know there’s someone else out there within relatively easy reach who can offer condolence and direction.

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            • Makes sense – you have to try to keep a site focused as far as possible, and I’m always reachable via email or FB. or even Twitter on occasion.


  2. I remember awfully little beyond the main plot to be honest. The main trick or whatever is employed will usually stay in my head, and in cases of Queen-like mystery novels, the major clues and thought process behind them, but don’t ever ask me for something like character or place names! Then again, I tend to read mystery novels more for the thinking process behind them (the logical process behind solving the mystery, and how the author structured things to help that plot), so in my mind, characters/places/etc. usually become symbols like character A and B. Which will also explain why I enjoy Queen so much more than Carr, as in my memory, Carr’s work is often recorded as “a gimmick”, while Queen’s work is usually remembered in more detail because of how the clewing works there.

    Case in point: I usually line the reviews for my blog up, instead of posting them whenever they’re ready, because I like having a stock in case things get busier. Next week a review of Phillpotts’ The Red Redmaynes, which I read in June last year. I’m skimming through my review, but I can’t remember any of the names mentioned! I do remember what the main trick is played by the murderer, but don’t ask me where it happened or how it was clewed or all that.

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    • Well, thank heaven for that — someone else who has my exact experience of recall and review. I worry sometimes that my response to something is almost too vapid because it’s been so long since I read it that only the vaguest glimmer of an opinion remains…and sometimes when I didn’t read it all that long ago, too!

      You’ve hit upon a key part of my reading, too: I’m a big proponent of the “suddenly-revealed genius clewing” aspect of detective novels, and that’s absolutely what sticks in my head. There’s one aspect of Christie’s The Secret Adversary — which I read, yeesh, 16 years ago — which stills sticks out for how cleverly it reveals, but the precise aspects of the plot (or any character beyond Tommy and Tuppence) are lost amidst all the other fiction mayhem I’m imbibed since then.

      I like to imagine my reading as a sort of drunken intoxication: I have a wonderful time during the book, and everything stands out as clear as day at the time, but when I wake up in the morning most of it is lost and all I have are a few photos on my phone and a headache to show for it!

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  3. To put it more smuttily, for you books are a series of one night stands, and I’ll bet you often have three or four on one nightstand. Sorry, but it’s 5am, and I just had a colonoscopy . . . (I know, I know: too much information. That’s all right – you’ll forget I said it in a few days. 🙂 )

    I should pass off my Christie prowess as my own X-Man superpower (my hero name is E-GAD, all in capital letters), but it worries me to see that reading one of my posts renders you into the spitting image of Donald Trump. The secret here is merely repetition! I own all the books, of course, but I also have most of them on audio book and would much rather listen to Christie than NPR. If you asked me to give you details on Passenger to Frankfurt or Postern of Fate, I could tell you very little because I’ve only read those once. The rest I’ve re-read multiple times because it pleases me to do so, and repetition aids memory.

    In my 20’s, I read every Dickens novel except three, and I loved them. I have the haziest recollection of many of them, except for those I re-read (yes, I actually re-read some of them.) Austen is even easier to remember because her books are shorter and less dense than Dickens. I like listening to them in the car, too. Each time I do, something new pops up or something I forgot, like the way Anne Elliot learns about her cousin’s true character. But certain moments stand out in thrilling clarity because of my enjoyment of them, like the strawberry picking scene in Emma. The one Austen I don’t like is Northanger Abbey, so I remember almost nothing about it.

    I recently re-read Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy in preparation for reading the first in his new trilogy. I was struck by the millions of plot points I had forgotten, even for the first book, which I have re-read several times. I have read the five Song of Ice and Fire doorstops, and I’m in a quandary: by book five, it was like my memories were falling off in droves, and I am in no mood to re-read this stuff in preparation for when and if Martin deigns to publish books six and/or seven!

    Finally, I used to consume books at a faster pace and read all the Dr. Fell novels. But I only read them once, and it was long ago. The joy of being able to re-read them as if they were new – and at an age where I can really understand and savor them – is unlimited!

    I, who read very slowly, have the nerve to suggest that a person who finishes a book every 3-4 days can’t hope to remember much of any of them after the initial flush of completion. Still, you would do well to hear from Kate, an equally prolific reader, on this subject. Just don’t listen to Santosh because it would just depress you: he remembers everything!

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  4. It’s a relief to know that I’m not alone in this imperfect recall. Sometimes I’m a little in awe of bloggers who seem to have every major GAD author and plotline poised and ready at their fingertips, while I’m always reluctant to recommend or condemn any book that I’ve read more than a few months ago, because there’s always that feeling of ‘but am I remembering it wrong?’
    Reading for me is part enjoyment, part compulsion and it’s often the case that having been buried in one book, I often pass so swiftly to the next that the details fade before they can be properly absorbed. Since writing a book and starting blogging I’ve been more aware of the shortcomings of such chain-reading and am trying harder to pause between books and reflect on them more. But the next book is always calling…

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    • There’s always a part of me, upon finishing a book, that fights over The Need to Let It Settle vs. Goddman, Let’s Read Another One — I’m typically happiest when finishing a book in the evening, so that the natural progression is then to sleep and start anew in the morning. I suppose I read in a genre where I at least have a moderately good idea what will happen before I pick it up, so its mainly the finer details that require any picking through, and that typically enables a swift moving on to the next one. I find it interesting to reflect that it’s the books from outside my normal reading type that I remember most distinctly…is that familiarity breeding — well, if not contempt then at least carelessness?

      I still remember the absolute shock and joy of reading the surprising revelations that explained the early impossible crime novels when I first realised they were a thing, and there’s no denying that’s a less common response now; I’ve wised up, or become more attuned to the tricks and the language used to mislead. Still, it really does make an impact when something great comes out of nowhere, and I can definitely pick a great impossibility every few months. So I suppose there’s some consolation there.

      I apologise for this comment turning into a therapy session. Won’t hapen again.

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  5. I review the moment I am done (though like Ho-Ling I like to try to maintain a buffer of reviews) and I often struggle to remember character names and other details. I am like that in other aspects of my life too though – it takes a repeated, concerted effort on my part to retain a name.

    In terms of broader details I usually retain the most information from books I have extreme feelings about but there are exceptions. I adore the I. J. Parker Akitada novels but struggle to remember which things happened in which books. TBH, I think that is probably one of my motivations for blogging – it becomes a record I can use to recall why I liked or disliked something and given I work as a librarian and have to do readers’ advisory it is useful to be able to quickly reaquaint myself with a title before talking about it.


    • The only time I reviewed a book immediately upon finishing it — time constraints, the review was scheduled to go up about 20 minutes later — I changed my perspective on it just enough in the telling areas to then have to backtrack on a couple of points. To be fair, that was an uncommonly complex book (The Burning Court), but I do feel sometimes like my brain has to rifle through a huuuuuuge index of cards once something is finished as if to sort out precisely where it should be categorised in the 17-dimensional space that is my response to books.

      And, yeah, I’m with you on how I use my reviews: the things that stick out to me typically go in the reviews that that they’re almost a cheat sheet if I need to refer to something in the months and years ahead. If someone says “Oh, but what about so-and-so…?” and it’s not mentioned in my review I’m pretty secure in saying “Oh, yeah, it didn’t strike me in that way…” because, hey, if it had I’d’ve commented on it!

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  6. I probably shouldn’t even comment since I’ve only been heavily reading these books for about two years. I tend to remember everything – the plot, the cast of characters (although not the names), the puzzle, the solution, and even the intricacies of the really complex interwoven ones. I think that blogging helps this – I tend to summarize my thoughts as soon as I’ve finished the book, although life constraints tend to stretch that process over several days. Writing things down makes me really think things over and I suspect that helps things stick.

    Of course, I forget what I don’t remember… I recall rereading the end of Hag’s Nook and being surprised by all of the little details I’d forgotten. This is the reason I’ve never written a post about Carr’s greatest work – The Problem of the Green Capsule. I could probably write a decent enough post, but I’d want it fresh in my mind to really do it justice.

    There is actually one book where I’m acutely aware I’ve forgotten a key detail. I can’t fully recall how the second poisoning in Carr’s Below Suspicion was pulled off. I remember a delightful aspect of how it was done, but there is a major puzzle piece missing that nags at me.


    • Yeah, jeez, Ben, what do you think you’re doing? Everyone knows that you need you Five-Year Long-Service to Reading badge before being allowed to express an opinion. But *sigh* fine, we’ll humour you this once…

      You make a great point about writing down helping as an aide-mémoire…who knows, maybe I’ll recall more in five years about books I blog about now than I do now about books I read five years ago (if you follow me…). I reread Carr’s The Punch and Judy Murders last year and was completely blindsided by a rather sizeable plot development, which was lovely if a little disconcerting — almost like discovering you’re not reading the book you think you are.

      I’m imagining this experience will repeat itself about 50 times as I reread Christie, as there’s a lot there which was read in the context of a lot of other, early-2000s crime fiction (which was my poison at the time) and so has faded in the face of so many domestic suspense novels. Almost makes me even mor eager to start from the beginning all over again.

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  7. You’re not alone here by any means. When I was going over the books that I’d read this year for my end of year post, I had to look up three or four of the admittedly-less-impressive ones to remind myself that I’d actually read them, let alone what they were about.

    It baffles me how people can recall every detail of a narrative – it happens occasionally at Bodies, when someone has a very precise question. Have they re-read the book several times or can they recall that from just one reading? Some books from an age ago I can’t remember a blind thing about, such as my current read, Elephants Can Remember (But Puzzle Doctor Can’t), whereas I can remember, I think, all of the details for One, Two, Buckle My Shoe enough that I have no real desire beyond blog completeness to re-read it. And I can’t remember much about The Punch And Judy Murders and I’ve blogged about that one!

    And of course, the memory cheats. I had really fond memories of The Red Widow Murders, for the atmosphere and the murder methods, but I’d selectively forgotten… something… about the plot that made it seem laughable on the second reading.

    So, as I said, you’re not alone…


    • So long as there’s a common acceptance of our general level of forgetfulness, I needn;t worry, then! I guess I feel sometimes like people have this wonderful, note-perfect recall and I’m scraping around in the hazy dull fog of loose memory. Thankfully it would appear there are plenty of us down here; the fog must just be too thick for me to’ve spotted anyone else…

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  8. Late response, I know, but only just got around to reading some blogs.

    Well, what you describe is not unusual at all. I think you can only really remember every single aspect of a story if you have photographic memory. Otherwise, you’re bound to forgot a good portion of a book. Even the ones you really like. Sure, there are people with a better memories, but gaps will always appear. However, I’m sure this has been pointed out the comments above, which I only skimmed through.

    Personally, I have a pretty good memory for plots, tricks, clues and ideas, but, like Ho-Ling, I can’t remember the names of characters. Or places. For example, I read Herbert Brean’s underrated Hardly a Man is Now Alive in my pre-blogging days and can clearly recall all of its plot-points and entire scenes. However, I can’t recall a single name. I suppose this can be explained by being a plot-driven reader and my brain simply latches onto plots I find admirably or interesting.

    By the way, my memory has begun to experience self doubt by all of the reviews of early period Ellery Queen by people who have never read EQ. I read most of EQ during the 2000s and remember really liking the international-series, but when I read reviews of The French Powder Mystery I begin to wonder whether we read the same book. What’s wrong with you people?

    I genuinely begin to fear me, Ho-Ling and Brad have to start putting some of you down when you lot start posting glowing reviews of Calamity Town, because (of course) that would be the one you guys would like over The French Powder Mystery or The Greek Coffin Mystery. I’m a cult-ish JDC fanboy and even I can see how great those early EQ’s are!

    And JJ, you should put Hardly a Man is Now Alive on your wish list. It’s a better Carr-style mystery than Wilders Walks Away.


    • I have fared better with my most recent Queen — full disclosure on Thursday.

      And at least you have the help of your superbly detailed plot summations when you blog about books; I’m always impressed at the efforts you go to when reporting the ins and outs. I’ve had to go the more ‘wispy-impressions’ route, and so reviewing my own reviews tends to return colours if not shapes. Maybe a more rigorous approach to writing down my thoughts would yield better long-term impressions.

      As for Brean, thanks for the recommendation. I have Traces of Brillhart (which I think is a recommendation I got from your place) but will start looking for HaMiNA. And so the cycle continues…!


  9. Am I the only one who actually writes things down while reading books intended for blog posts? It seems to me that this is almost a necessity for anyone who blogs, especially you JJ with your much more detailed discussions. You talk about things that strike you and then they go in the review. you must keep track of them somehow other than memory.

    I credit one high school teacher and one college professor with teaching me how to read novels, what to look for while reading. I seem to be one of the few bloggers who approaches each book as a genuine novel, looking for themes, paying attention to style and vocabulary, and not just studying plot mechanics. The detective fiction blogs have increasingly becoming about the puzzle and not the rest of the book which for me is somewhat disillusioning. I simply can’t talk about puzzles and plots all the time. It becomes extremely boring to me. Hence my “Things That I Learned” sections and the lengthy quoted passages that I find fascinating.

    I have never written anything on my blog without having the book right next to me to refer to and look up character names, and other details. I also write down key plot points and the page numbers they occur and often re-read those sections prior to writing my post. It’s not just because I’m much older than most of you (but not Brad who I believe is one year younger than me) or that I am plagued with memory issues, but because I want my essays to be accurate more than anything.

    For years I remembered the identity of every villain in all the Christie books and I couldn’t re-read any of them. I still recall the entire plots of most of her work, but not all of them. Retaining long term memories of any book’s content has a lot to do with when your first read the book and how you felt about it.

    Ultimately, memory is a function that needs to trained and kept in good operating condition. You can’t just rely on it to work on autopilot. If you want to improve your memory you can find ways to do that. In the face of encroaching neurological deficits and some past permanent damage I have had to learn how to remap and relearn how to use my parts of my brain in the past couple of years. You’d be astounded how you can strengthen memory and ward off further long term loss once you have mastered the tricks of learning how to “rewire” the way you perceive and operate in the world.

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    • I’m with you on never writing anything about a book without it in front of me — accuracy is a bugbear of mine, particularly in light of innacurate synopses or misattribution of subgenre (jeez, the number of “impossible crime” or “locked room” novel I’ve picked up that are anything but…).

      For my own notes — here’s a glimpse behind the curtain, get excited — I have little post-it-esque stickers that I stick next to anything that strikes me as relevant or interesting (quotes, developments, anarchronisms, etc), then when it comes to write the review I pick through these and see which best fit the points I wish to make. I apologise, John, if I’m a puzzle-heavy blogger, but construction and (especially) misdirection are pure fascination for me, which is why I ended up in this genre. Noah and I have echanged many comments over what we’ve learned as a result of reading in this era, but it’ll always be the revelation of being misled (now, alas, getting less and less often…) that brings me back time and again.

      Weirdly, my slightly dodgy recall only relates to books – with films and TV, and people, I have an astoundingly eidetic memory and can quote dialogie or conversations from years before with sometimes terrifying detail (this is how my love of Shakespeare was fostered, through sheer delight at the richness in the phrasing that I was able to pick apart over and over again). I’ve always suspected I’m a little dyslexic, on account of how much I process visually, and how relatively easy I find doing things that way (virtually all my Maths recall and processing is shapes and colours — and give me a visual method over complex algebra any day). If people’s names in novels were emoticons, I’d be fine and dandy…


    • I read too slowly to be a mere reviewer, and I see no big deal to my telling the world that And Then There Were None is a good book. I love to explore mechanics, like JJ, and theme, like you, John. I tend to send myself notes on an e-mail when I spot a quote or idea I like. Then I can copy/paste to my post.


    • “… It’s not just because I’m much older than most of you …”
      Well, John., there are several people older than you such as Mathew Paust, Les Blatt, Realthog, myself and even Brad !


  10. Hm, I don’t remember…

    Seriously: I do recall the broad strokes of what I read/play, especially major plot twists. But I used to re-read a lot more than I do and like Ho-Ling I don’t recall the individual bits of logic unless they’re spectacular. Still. I’m happy to report that over years of reading mystery novels and short stories the only one I’ve truly “forgotten” was Anthony Berkeley’s The Avenging Chance. The collection, not the story (though thinking about it, I realized I didn’t recall that much!) I don’t know why I had this happen with this collection in particular, but when I flipped through the table of contents I’d forgotten that half of those stories existed.

    It’s a pain when blogging, though I decent at getting my thoughts down shortly after finishing. Usually. I’ve had to abandon a review of one of the Monk books because I took too long between reading and reviewing. (To be fair there are other reasons for that, such as realizing that if you haven’t read the series up to this point there’s no point in recommending. It’s good, but much of it is cogent on you caring about the characters.) Tie this in with a general difficulty with articulating why I liked/did not like something, unless it’s very obvious, and you end up with some lackluster reviews!


    • I am staggeringly bad where short story collections are involved, which is part of why when I blog about them I review each tale separately — hopefully that will be enough to come back and refresh my memory if needed.


  11. Pingback: GOOSEBUMPS: THE CHRISTIE EDITION | ahsweetmysteryblog

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