We all know memory is a funky thing. I, at least, have those moments when I think "I am going to remember this for the rest of my life." And then, you know, I don't think I really do remember exactly that moment. But maybe I do? I can't remember. See that? That's the funkiness of memory.
And I feel like that very strangeness of memory is implicated in the weird inexplicable way certain books stick with you and others don't.
Here's what should be true: the books you love and experience most fully remain the most indelible in your memory.
Here's what is true: Random crap from certain books you don't even remember reading gets stuck in your head.
For instance? Jaws II. Yes, I read it—let's get that out there first. Second? It is emblazoned upon my memory, tiny stupid scene by tiny stupid scene: the guy looking down through the water at his neoprene-clad leg spinning into the depths, the lady water-skiing as the shark's hideous, gaping maw—those words exactly—loomed behind her. Do I remember the wording, say, of how Levin looked when he was ice skating on the pond in Anna Karenina, even in translation? No, of course I don't. For me, Jaws II is in my mind forever. This is not necessarily how I want things to be.
And I remember, too, things that never happened in books. I am sure—sure—that I read one of the Little House books, in which Pa found a large gold nugget, as smooth as an egg, while he was panning for gold. How satisfying this scene was in memory! I looked forward to re-experiencing it when I was reading those books to my girls. Except: I never read it to them, because it never happened. Each book I went through I waited for it, thinking "It's got to be this one!" and when it ended, "Well for sure it's in the next one." But it never came? Why? Where is it? Where did it come from, and why is it here stuck in my memory? I will never know.
So here is my question: What makes a book stay with you? Does it vary from person to person, or is it the books themselves that have the staying power? Does it have to do when where and when you were when you read a book? What the heck is it that makes a book leave an aftertaste? And where oh where is that scene with the big smooth egg-shaped piece of gold from?