“In the world according to Garp, we are obliged to remember everything.”
Recently, a television news magazine devoted time to the phenomenon of people who remember in detail every moment of every day of their lengthening lives.* The gaggle of medical researchers, psychological probers, and curiosity seekers circling around these woebegone souls was enough to make me thankful, perhaps for the first time, that there are some things I can forget. But I am more thankful for the things I remember, and for the honor we are able to grant others and ourselves when we remember, if only for a time, what we have been through, alone and together.
We were given this year, finally, the full autobiography of the great Mark Twain. Is it possible for someone so well-known and so thoroughly woven into the fabric of our culture to be underappreciated? Reading this book makes me think so. I recall that Twain was the one who framed the inarguable truth, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” And this is why, on this morning of this waning year, it is apt that we reflect on what we have seen and what it might mean.