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The last two books concern how memories are both created and preserved. What happens when memory is lost? Both Memory Loss by Scott McCarney and The Dog’s Tale by Shu-ju Wang explore this topic with strong and thought-provoking images.

Memory Loss was inspired by the artist’s response to a traumatic brain injury suffered by his brother. McCarney’s combination of text drawn from medical literature, fractured imagery and personal memorabilia parallels the sudden cognitive and emotive changes in his brother’s behavior and his own response to the different person his brother had become. This accordion book will not lay flat and will not conform to what we expect a book to do, just as his brother’s mind and memory would not “lay flat” or return to normal. His brother’s mood characteristics “irritability,” “silliness” and “impatience” are coupled with text and images from medical research on brain injury.

The other side of the book, both more colorful and with more white space, shows the brother’s world and his own reaction to his memory loss and the new way his brain functions. This heartrending and riveting book asks us to consider who we are, and who we would be if we were suddenly left without our memories and histories.

Memory Loss
Scott McCarney

The stories we tell to help us remember is also at the heart of Nox by Anne Carson. Carson, a well known poet and classicist, literally unfolds the story of her grief at the death of her brother in this eloquent and compelling accordion book. The underlying text of Nox is Catullus’ poem #101, which describes the Roman poet’s deep sadness at the loss of his brother. Carson takes each Latin word of the poem, defines it, and augments it with photographs and memorabilia to juxtapose and correlate the loss depicted in the ancient poem to her own brother’s life and death.

In addition to assembling a visual epitaph in her brother’s memory, Carson contemplates her grief and the human need for mourning and memorializing those we have lost. The page shown here shows the Latin verb tradita, which means something handed down or passed on. The opposite page reads poetically “for lack of a better term, a windswept spirit.” Carson takes the Roman concepts of historia and memoria and makes a haunting elegy for her departed brother.

Anne Carson

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