“The Memory Artists” by Jeffrey Moore

I was spurred to re-read (original post here) Jeffrey Moore’s The Memory Artists when I resumed work on my endless novel-in-progress.*

One of the main characters (there are several), Noel Burun, has a combination of synesthesia (he sees letters and sounds in color) which is linked to hypermnesia, an overly elaborate memory system (similar ot photographic, or eidetic, memory). The different way his brain works makes it hard for him to function in society, so he mostly spends time in a psychology lab doing tests with his mentor, Emile Vorta, the fictional editor of the book, adding sometimes illuminating, sometimes hilarious, and always suspect end notes. He lives in a crumbling mansion with his mother, whose memory is deteriorating rapidly as a result of Alzheimer’s disease and is fast becoming exhausted of money and physical resources in caring for her.

Orbiting Noel are a sarcastic friend from the lab, a woman with a singular hole in her memory, and a genial doofus-savant. Chapters switch from third person, focusing on one of two of these at time, or individual journals, the mother’s being particularly heartbreaking. All these combine for a complex portrait of friendship, a few mysteries, and an interesting consideration of opposites and extremes. While it had a bit too much wrapping up in just a few pages at the end, the entire book, its characters, and its neurological topics were all utterly engaging to me. A lovely book, with lots of great visuals, that’s worth tracking down, since it seems to be out of print in the US.

* When Guppy started kindergarten this fall, I rejoined my writing group and decided I wanted to have another go at a novel where the main character has synesthesia (a cross wiring of the senses). I’ve been working on it for years (9 as of November; sigh) yet the break I took from when Guppy was 1.5 to starting school at 5.5 felt like a productive one, generating a few plot ideas to make the novel more complex, timely, and (I hope) interesting.

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