When a book and a head collide and a hollow sound is heard, must it always have come from the book?
— Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books
Patrick Kurp describes a common experience of mine, the inability to remember anything noteworthy about a book. Well, to be more accurate, it’s not that I remember nothing about them, it’s just that I can’t produce my recollections on demand in the form of a critical summary. In fact, it’s quite interesting to attempt to describe what memory is like when it comes to books I’ve read. I might be reading some random article online, and a phrase or an idea might jump out at me. “That sounds like something Eric Hoffer said,” I might think, even though I couldn’t begin to recite the quotation from memory. However, it feels similar in some non-verbal way, so I go get my copy of Between the Devil and the Dragon off the shelf and skim through it, looking over all the passages I flagged for occasions like these. My brain only has the RAM of a late-90s desktop, so I can only store so much detailed information at once. Mostly, what I remember about books is vague impressions, tied to loose themes, all strung together like a spider’s web, just waiting for some sensory input to send a vibration down the particular thread that leads to, say Eric Hoffer’s book. I don’t know how to explain it any better than the spider would know how to explain its innate knowledge of how to build a web.