a cuckoo calling (jk rowling) & julia shaw’s the illusion of memory

a cuckoo calling

really enjoyable – hard to put down (or a delight to pick up); cormoran strike and robyn are great characters, and the story unwinds and retangles in the manner of the best whodunnits

that’s all it is really – a whodunit – but none the worse for that; a clear love of london shines through, the unfulfilled semi-erotic tension between strike and robin is fun, and there are many ‘makes you think’ moments, particularly about what strike has had to live through and (as in a casual vacancy how the other half live (that’s both halves))

julia shaw’s the illusion of memory

a poorly edited but interesting introduction to contemporary thinking on memory; she manages to combine what seems to be a thorough scientific account with an at times breathless enthusiasm designed for youf-appeal

she convinced me at any rate how unreliable our memories are – at least that’s what i think she did

How they are related

Whodunnits rely on a gradual strip-teasy revealing of the past; someone said once that detective fiction is written backwards: you start with the murder, and then dig back to find out why it happened – and that gives you the ‘who’ as well.

What the author finally presents us with is a series of undisputed facts (in the world of the fiction); a concatenation of causes and effects leading from some trauma or proto-crime to the one we witnessed at the novel’s opening. It’s all wrapped up – using the literal sense of ‘wrapped up’ as a bolder metaphor than the usual one the phrase conveys: it’s a gift to us, all sealed and complete.

Which is how we naively view our memories.

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