I have a wall of bookshelves–and I like to stare at it sometimes. It is immense, it is colorful, it includes Tom Clancy as well as Thomas Pynchon as well as Murakami and Shakespeare and Hornby. There are books I was required to read, books I chose to read, books I’ve yet to read, and books I hate but mostly books I love. They were read (or have yet to be read) at different points of my life, when I was thirty pounds heavier and when I was twenty pounds lighter and when I was sad and when I was happy and when I was energized and when I was down. But they all changed me somehow. I like to think that all the books up there are a reflection of my mind and brain.
Maybe the reflection is not complete, but it is at least a blurry snapshot of my mind.
It’s natural to think that maybe some books haven’t made it into one’s psyche. “What if I’ve forgotten what I’ve read? How can it be in my brain?”
I think it is (in your mind)–even if you don’t remember the book, I believe your psyche has picked up on experience of the book, somehow. The fear or sadness or surprise you feel while reading a story expands the mind somehow. Like childhood fairytales, or family oral narratives. You forget them, you think, but they pop up again. They’ve left a footprint; if every experience in your life affects you in some way and if reading is an experience, then why not? I think stories are immense experiences–reading a book is a supernatural experience in and of itself: you are transported to another world in the act of reading or hearing a story.
Even if you’ve “forgotten,” because you haven’t really forgotten. They’re just deep in your subconscious somewhere. Like if you have a fear of heights but you don’t really know why but your subconscious never forgets about the time you fell off the bed, landed on your head and broke all your teeth and now you are totally scared of heights because your subconscious never wants you to relive that memory of the smashing of the head and the teeth–whew!
As I’ve been writing my novel, I’m surprised at how much the forgotten has re-arisen: while writing my book, I thought about making it a modern fairytale. I did some research on Korean folktales, and discovered that I had subconsciously been following the format of a Korean folktale. Was it my genetics? More likely, it was all the folktales I heard as a child. Whew! Go subconscious, go! Go bookshelf, go!