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Theories of Forgetting
by Lance Olsen
University of Alabama Press, 2014
Paper: 978-1-57366-179-9 | eISBN: 978-1-57366-846-0
Library of Congress Classification PS3565.L777T44 2014
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.54

Theories of Forgetting is concerned with how words matter, the materiality of the page, and how a literary work might react against mass reproduction and textual disembodiment in the digital age--right from its use of two back covers (one "upside down" and one "right-side up") that allow the reader to choose which of the novel's two narratives to privilege.

Theories of Forgetting is a narrative in three parts. The first is the story of Alana, a filmmaker struggling to complete a short documentary about Robert Smithson’ s famous earthwork, The Spiral Jetty, located where the Great Salt Lake meets the desert. Alana falls victim to a pandemic called The Frost, whose symptoms include an increasing sensation of coldness and growing amnesia. The second involves Alana’ s husband, Hugh, owner of a rare-and-used bookstore in Salt Lake City, and his slow disappearance across Jordan while on a trip both to remember and to forget Alana’ s death. The third involves marginalia added to Hugh’ s section by his daughter, Aila, an art critic living in Berlin. Aila discovers a manuscript by her father after his disappearance and tries to make sense of it by means of a one-sided “ dialogue” with her brother, Lance.

Each page of the novel is divided in half. Alana’ s narrative runs across the top of the page, from back to front, while Hugh’ s and his daughter’ s tale runs “ upside down” across the bottom of the page, from front to back. How a reader initially happens to pick up Theories of Forgetting determines which narrative is read first, and thereby establishing the reader’ s meaning-making of the novel.

See other books on: Forgetting | Memory | Memory in literature | Olsen, Lance | Theories
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