This week came more proof of the importance of music to how my mind works….many of you may know that I have no ability to memorize anything…mean anything…I have never been able to memorize addition or subtraction facts, multiplication tables, spellings, dates, or…or anything…I could never memorize prose sections or poetry…If I understand the system that things work in I can remember them, but I have never been able to learn anything by rote memorization…the BIG exception to this block is music…I can hear a song twice and I will remember the words of that song forever…In fact, the only multiplication table I know, I know because my father realized this quirk in my memorization skills. When I was in the 4th grade, he wrote a song about multiplying by 4s…I remember almost every word to this day.
These days, Lydia has gotten me into listening to fiction during my long work-related road trips instead of music…This week I had a 8 hour journey up to the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (and back) to give a talk about the Arkansas Archeological Society’s “Summer Dig.” I had just finished The Paris Wife, a novel about Hadley Richardson–Ernest Hemmingway’s first wife–so I chose to listen to Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises…I chose this book 1) because it was about 7 hours long ; 2) I had not read this novel since high school and 3) I wanted to see what insights The Paris Wife might offer to a reading of the novel.
I got back to Magnolia about mid-day on Wed…I intended to go to the office after a quick lunch…but I made the mistake of laying down for a nap…As I drifted off to sleep, I fumbled with my iPod to find some music to listen to while I snoozed…to my surprise I chose–of all things–Phil Collin’s first solo album Face Value (1981).
As I listened to the infinitely overdubbed horns and drum machines, I began to realize, through the foggy haze of my road-weariness, that there were some obtuse resonances between a couple of the songs and some of the plot points in The Sun Also Rises…next came the realization that I had made these connections before…then came the shock–I knew why I had chosen Face Value…I had been listening to this album when I originally read The Sun Also Rises back in like 1986-87…my subconscious still linked these two works…crazy.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite, random, surrealistic exchanges in The Sun Also Rises (presaging Henry Miller–one of my favorites):
“Here’s a taxidermist’s,” Bill said. “Want to buy anything? Nice stuffed dog?”
“Come on,” I said. “You’re pie-eyed.”
“Pretty nice stuffed dogs,” Bill said. “Certainly brighten up your flat.”
“Just one stuffed dog. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em alone. But listen, Jake. Just one stuffed dog.”
“Mean everything in the world to you after you bought it. Simple exchange of values. You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog.”
“We’ll get one on the way back.”
“All right. Have it your way. Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs. Not my fault.”