Monday, May 9, 2011

Rereading Timothy Taylor's Story House on the Kobo

Before I left for our trip, conscious that I should be spending at least some time thinking about the conference paper I'm presenting this month, I debated which books to bring along for work. I knew I should at least re-read the two primary novels, but I really didn't want to cart them around, particularly because I wasn't willing to discard them, en route, in favour of new reading. So, Kobo to the rescue, I actually bought an electronic copy of Timothy Taylor's Story House, despite already owning it in hardcover. And then found, of course, that despite the undeniable convenience this copy provided, I had to write out any passages I wanted to note, since the Kobo doesn't allow me to highlight and save quotations.

I've already commented on this novel, three years ago when I first read it, before I started my reading blog. Given that I'm busy writing a paper about it, I won't bother saying much here. But I will share this thought-provoking passage that I couldn't resist reading aloud to Pater. The very bright, very logical Esther, determined always to move forward rather than to dwell on the past, is explaining to her husband, Graham (who is rather obsessed with understanding his deceased father) why personal experience is not the reliable guide he assumes  it to be. For Esther, "The present is your only guide. What you know today is not only enough, it is all you know."
She goes on to offer "nine reasons why you should ignore experience"  (and I would want to quibble here that experience, surely, is part of "what you know today"). The narrator repeats only three of these nine reasons, but I find these three a very compelling argument, despite my quibble. Here they are: "One: availability to memory. Your great reservoir of  'experience' comprises only incidents you remember. What of all you forget? Two: inherent bias. Your life delivers up a certain quality of experience, your reality being a subset of possibility, not the reverse. What of all you miss? Three: superannuation. Things change. The lessons of one's experience, such that they exist at all, have a stale-date" (99).

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