October 14, 2015

'People Can Just Pick You Up And Move You And Put You Down'

Amanda Fortini's interview with the writer Mary Karr at The Paris Review includes this visceral description of childhood:

INTERVIEWER

In the first section of The Liars' Club, you inhabit the mind of a seven-year-old to an uncanny degree. How were you able to capture what it was like to be a child?

KARR

Childhood was terrifying for me. A kid has no control. You're three feet tall, flat broke, unemployed, and illiterate. Terror snaps you awake. You pay keen attention. People can just pick you up and move you and put you down. One of my favorite poems, by Nicanor Parra, is called "Memories of Youth":

"All I'm sure of is that I kept going back and forth. 
Sometimes I bumped into trees, 
bumped into beggars. 
I forced my way through a thicket of chairs and tables."

Our little cracker box of a house could give you the adrenaline rush of fear, which means more frames of memory per second. Emotional memories are stored deep in the snake brain, which is probably why aphasics in nursing homes often cuss so much--that language doesn't erode in a stroke.

The Art of Memoir, No. 1 [theparisreview.org via dt reader anne]

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