Memory Bane – Time’s Natural Born Villain, pt1 [Chronicles of Dis–Infection, early August2012]]

We cannot change our memories, but we can change their meaning and the power they have over us

 David Seamands quotes


Latley, I cannot escape memory. Memory mesmerizes my mere me. I don’t mean a traumatic episode from the past popping up in the middle of my oneiric, moon-shined existings, I don’t mean dreamy diurnal recollections of a golden yore [yonder, on tortuga island] nor any other crypto-Adlerian mode of having the past re-play, palimpsize or anyotherwhichhow deface the unsensible advance of the present. Memory is much on my mind but I am not gridlocked in memory lane, fundamentally, is the general point I am attempting to signify here and now. What then? Three terms: Barnes, Banville, Flaubert – add six – as well as, I suppose, Mutis. This is what it is but if one is of a mind to so view it it could also be pretension. And by chance or for good measure, in some other media conduits: Total Recall and The Ashes of Time [Wong Kar-Wai]. As I pointed out, memory, the abstract concept of it, won’t let me be.

            To begin with let’s start with an ending, the sense of one. Not to be too effete about this but the Man Booker Prize for a few literary grandees [as well as many minorees] has not necessarily shone a good light on this light, lithe booklet. “Good middlebrow fiction” is an expression Banville who himself won the prix in 2005, used in reference to what the judges habitually reward. In fact the book, in my immediate social surroundings, as well as the larger literatosphere, was received with such universal acclaim that my critical antennae couldn’t help perking up in utmost unsympathetic vibration. Contrarianism can be nuisancically instinctive.



For a long time I mentally sidestepped even the possibility of reading the novel. Eventually my sister got on my case about how I was missing out on a lot of gleaming prose and gut-rending-in-a-good-way melancholy. [My sister got on my case? Considering it closer I have absolutely no idea what this means yet I know exactly what it means. Language is like money that way, an act of faith that keeps things circulating. The buck crumbles when you pay the original sovereign debt….language is more hardy.]

Yet, despite my tremulous trepidation and my sister’s location atop my case, ultimately of course it was serendipity that put the book in my hands or rather placed it conspicuously on a shelf right in front of my nose as I plunked down on my good friend’s couch. “Here I am, bitch, read me”. [It’s a mystifying aside that the producer of this artifact, J. Barnes, despite the effort it must have taken him to bring all these words forth, in a meaningful sequence no less, probably could’ve cared less if whether or not one specific Themba Mabona read his book or not, if he even so much as knew. Having written and published it, the object has become both his and absolutely not. If the story is printed and nobody reads it, does that story exist?]

Even as I write “The sense of an ending” lies next to the keyboard with its sadsack cover of dandelion seeds blowing about against a grey, foreboding, grime-rimmed background. It’s a visual synopsis: things will end for all of us, later for some or right point now as you graze these letters – not particularly bad, not particularly good either but end all the same; one can sense it, sense it alright.



One of its interesting themes is the recollection of youth-tinted perception of adult life as both a space of possibility and accelerated speed-of-life [too terribly turbo true], as well as a source of insecurity/anxiety – adults must never be fully trusted, they must be studied so one can become a better, fuller version of what they seem to attempt to be yet one must guard against becoming what they explicitly wish us to become. Only one’s very own imago will do; what an anxious act of metamorphis! If nothing else, change is a certainty and life the wisest teacher, go the sayings. More aptly as per Sir Barnes:

Masters[1] and parents used to remind us irritatingly that they too had once been young, and so could speak with authority. It’s just a phase, they would insist. You’ll grow out of it; life will teach you reality and realism” [p.11].

And reading this line, remembering now, what could I help but haplessly look back myself? Rolf and me, juvenile, lethargic larvae lolling by the caff’s enormous window during the big break, the eternal break, staring past the schoolyard into the pale passage of minutes, the arrhythmic heart of time itself, now and then ineptly pawing at the veil of Maya, trying to imagine if there might exist anything beyond boredom. The freaking purity of boredom. We were jaded before our time, considered ourselves existentialists of Beckettian ilk though we didn’t amount to more than Pinocchio versions of the actual condition. Clueless were we, bored out of our minds, worried all out of shit by the approach of, chimerical as it turned out, post-matric adulthood, which, for starters, we couldn’t even imagine. At a subjective level, I tried to imagine something beyond the infinite, paralytic boredom of Mathematics, Biology, French and all that crapology but failed. Failed again, failed worse. I think the same went for R. A phase post our home-cooked, half-arsed existentialism, as promised per our French teacher Mr. R? [His words pretty much exactly “This too shall pass”]. Utterly impossible. Who could possibly inject significance into this lumbering skeleton called everyday[2] life?



By not knowing a damn thing it seemed very much we knew it all. We would be taught naught, neither reality nor realism, much less becoming serious, responsibility-raked adults. All of which: not. What we probably lacked was a young Adrian Finn [the clear-eyed, ultra intelligent head of the protagonal triplet in TSoaE, who {ANTISpoil™}], one of our number who could appreciate and analyze both adults’ need for nostalgia-fueled intergenerational preeminence and youth’s inexperience-induced, auto-protective carapace of hubris for what they were and are…phases, conditions, prodromes.


[1] There is something about in-your-mug UK-style Classism that…transfixes. You stop in semantic shock, mid reading and retrace your words. Did he just write that? Is this how they bloody put it in England? Yes, a teacher had best be called a master: “Where is thine homework, thrall?”


[2] Neatly I managed to mentally totally separate from this the rather diverting “phases” of weekend nights, basketball, holidays and any sexual type situations. Somehow these must have not belonged to life proper, the pale monster.



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About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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