Thursday, February 13, 2014

A writing exercise in Georges Perec's "I Remember"

Here at Godine, we're all very excited to be publishing Georges Perec's I Remember (translated from the French by Philip Terry), set to be out later this spring. I Remember is the last of Perec's major works to be translated into English. It consists exclusively of 480 numbered statements, all beginning exactly the same way: "I remember..." 
For Perec, a member of the experimental writing group Oulipo, this began as a parlor game at a writer's retreat he went to, with particular restrictions for the players of the game: you had to remember something that other people could remember too, and the thing you remembered had to no longer exist.  This has since grown from a writing exercise to an expansive work of art, but because part of Oulipo's aim is to create tools for writing to be used by others, the "I remember" formula can be taken on by anyone who pleases. In fact, Perec requested that there be several blank pages at the end of the published edition "for readers to write their own 'I remembers' which the reading of these ones will hopefully have inspired."

So, filled with Perec's Oulipian inspiration, I share with you 12 of my own memories, following the same constraints:
1.       I remember a stranger's Florida license plate, 3UEU737.
2.       I remember Calvin and Hobbes in the Sunday funnies.
3.       I remember having a huge crush on Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You.
4.       I remember my kindergarten triumph as leader of the playground-wide dinosaur game.
5.       I remember 3.14 but never the rest.
6.       I remember Legends of the Hidden Temple and always rooting for the Blue Barracudas.
7.       I remember looking up movie show times in the local paper.
8.       I remember my parents' '97 Honda Accord with my name on the license plate.
9.       I remember memorizing every state capital in second grade.
10.     I remember the Great Beanie Baby Craze (and making my parents be a part of it).
11.     I remember my grandfather falling asleep with a kitten on his shoulder.
12.     I remember green ketchup. 

If you're feeling similarly inspired, we'd love to hear your memories in the comments! Just as I Remember has created a sort-of catalogue of the author's generation, we can gather a great picture of who all our readers are. We can't wait to share this with all of you, so be on the lookout for Perec's exciting work!   

1 comment:

  1. 1. I remember making what we called “ship houses” out of sheets and couch cushions with my siblings.
    2. I remember muddy knees during soccer practices in the rain.
    3. I remember playing Number Munchers, Oregon Trail, and Dr. Quandary in my elementary school’s computer lab.
    4. I remember “taste testing” the grapes in the produce section when helping my parents shop for groceries.
    5. I remember given the choice between piano practice and watching Wee Sing in The Big Rock Candy Mountain, I chose the VHS tape.
    a. I remember VHS tape rewinders.
    6. I remember getting a rush out of the audience’s laughter in response to my one line as the obscure “Camper #3” during a camp talent show skit.
    7. I remember wearing oversized bedazzled sweatshirts, hot pink leggings, and Adidas Sambas.
    8. I remember the TV Guide channel.
    9. I remember collecting wooden nickels to be cashed in for toy prizes at my orthodontist’s office.
    10. I remember reading Goosebumps, eating ginger snap cookies, and watching George Carlin stand-up shows at my grandparent’s apartment.