Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr
Scribner, New York, 2010
Borrowed from my local library. Winner of the 2010 Story Prize.
I am not really much of a short story reader. I might read the latest story published in the New Yorker, or link to a story someone has sent to me, but I much prefer novels. There are a few exceptions. This author is one of them.
I discovered Anthony Doerr by accident. While browsing the shelves at my local library the cover of his first story collection, The Shell Collector, caught my eye.
I brought it home and was captured by Doerr’s writing, his depth of feeling and the places time and nature take in his work. I put his newest collection on hold at the library thinking I would get to it right away. Things kept pushing it aside until I finally carved out the space to read it. I will not let that happen with his next collection.
We return to the places we’re from; we trample faded corners and pencil in new lines. “You’ve grown so fast,” Robert’s mother tells him at breakfast, at dinner. “Look at you.” But she’s wrong, thinks Robert. You bury your childhood here and there. It waits for you, all your life, to come back and dig it up. From page 242.
The stories in this new collection are about memory, how it connects us through time, how it haunts us and changes us. These stories read like novels, full of care and tenderness. Somehow Doerr’s stories each hold a universe of space and time, a sense of distance and the knowledge that life goes on around us whether we are aware of it or not.
From The River Nemunas:
It’s not a fish. I know it’s not a fish. It’s just a big lump of memory at the bottom of the River Nemunas. I say a prayer Dad taught me about God being in the light and in the water and the rocks, about God’s mercy enduring forever. I say it quickly to myself, hissing it out through my lips, and pull then crank, pull then crank. God is in the light, God is in the water, God is in the rocks, and I feel Mishap scrabbling around the boat with his little claws and I can even feel his heart beating in his chest, a bright little fist opening and closing, and I can feel the river pulling past the boat, its tributaries life fingernails dragging through an entire country, all of Lithuania draining into this one artery, five hundred slicing miles of water, all the way to the Baltic, which Grandpa Z says is the coldest sea in Europe, and something occurs to me that will seem obvious to you but that I never thought about before. A river never stops. Wherever you are, whatever your doing, forgetting, sleeping, mourning, dying – the rivers still keep running. From page 182.
I love these stories and highly recommend this collection.
Reflections from the Hinterland