Over the Christmas and New Year period I read ‘We are all completely beside ourselves’. I had intended to read a few books while Paul was on holidays and I had more time to read. However this book tripped me up and I haven’t been able to pick up a book since finishing it nearly two weeks ago. So I need to write about it obviously.
This book wasn’t written in the way that I am used to, there was no chronological timeline of the way that things went. I was left wanting more because I just wanted to know the gaps in the story. They weren’t important, the story still made sense but I had gotten to know all of these characters so well and I didn’t want to give them up.
The story was told by a college student named Rosemary. She started in the middle and worked her way out. The story jumped from past to present but it felt right, and the story flowed. It didn’t feel like I had to remember all of these different parts of the story, because they all fit so well together.
Rosemary has a secret, which she reveals early on in the story, but not before you get to know the characters first. Her belief being that you shouldn’t judge their actions based on who the characters are. It’s an interesting way of setting the scene and I found myself forgetting that defining secret because the groundwork had already been done.
One of the things that comes up during the book a lot is memories and the reality of the way we remember things. She talks about the telling of the story being more important that the actual contents of the story. Rosemary muses that the only reason we remember a story is because of the way it’s told.
“The happening and telling are very different things. This doesn’t mean that the story isn’t true, only that I honestly don’t know anymore if I really remember it or only remember how to tell it. Language does this to our memories, simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An off-told story is like a photograph in a family album. Eventually it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.”
― Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
This stuck with me as I continued to read the book. I wondered how it applied to real life, especially to those of us who blog. I often write about things that have happened in my past, and I find great gaping holes in the story. I don’t know how I got from A to B. It left me wondering if this was because they are stories that I don’t often tell.
I find myself reading through old posts regularly, and being almost surprised at the story. I’m not surprised at the content, for I know the story within, but I am often surprised at the way I have chosen to tell it. I think that I could tell the same story so many different ways and they would still be foreign to me because they aren’t stories that are socially acceptable to tell.
My writing has changed over the last 3 years. I feel that it has become less disjointed, it flows better in my head. The stories haven’t changed, but my ability to tell them has. I find the words coming more easily when I talk about emotions. I feel like my writing has more emotion attached to it now.
Memories and emotions are so closely linked. We often remember the things that made us feel the most intense emotions. As the story gets told, I think that often things are added or subtracted as we feel our way around. We remember the way that the actions made us feel and validation means that we continue to tell these stories.
We are all completely beside ourselves has given me so much food for thought. The copy that I have also includes book club questions so I may revisit this book again. I just hope that getting these words on the page means that I can make room for another book. I didn’t want to move on because I didn’t want to lose the emotions. The telling of the story hitting me harder than I expected.
Have you read ‘We are all completely beside ourselves’?
Do you have a story that you always tell people you meet?
Linking up with Jess for IBOT!
I’ve never heard of that book, but it sounds like maybe I should give it a read. Is it a recently published one? I love it when books leave such a long lasting impression on you that you can’t start a new book for ages after because you just don’t want to lose the feeling you have from the previous book.
I actually sent that quote to my SIL – at lunch she was asking her brother ‘why do I remember that? Is it just because you tell the story, or because I was there?’ No one could decide if she was actually there, but she remembers it clearly….
Sounds like an intriguing read! Must add it to my list 🙂
This is really interesting Tegan – clearly the book made a powerful impression. I do think it is true that the emotions linger longer than the memories and the content of our stories. Like that saying ‘people don’t remember what you said or did, they remember how you made them feel.’ I think it is a great sign of being more comfortable in your own skin when you can put the emotions into stories – the more vulnerable we are the more powerful our stories.
Oh this sounds like my kind of book! I love a book that provokes so much afterthought. I feel the same way with my blog too. I know my writing has improved, and my story telling. But sometimes I read back and think who is this person and ask myself why I chose to write that way. I guess it is testament to time and change, growth and maturity. At least I hope it is!
Books with gaps in the story drive me insane! I have this insatiable need to know *everything*. And I don’t like subtle implications either – The Fault In Our Stars was a shocker for that. I still want to know the whole story about the daughter and what happened to her!
I too find it interesting to go back and read over old posts, the way we remember things at the time is always quite different to the way we remember them after-the-fact.
I really enjoyed that book and reviewed it on my blog! The whole mesh of love, families and relationships made it a great read!
I often worry about thinking about memories because I’m scared I will remember it differently than it happened, and then I’ll remember it wrong. But maybe that’s not as important as telling the story like you said?
I think I would like to read this book.
I think we all get better as we write consistently on our blogs because writing is a skill and craft? I should go back and read some of my first blogs to see the change in the way I write.
I haven’t heard of the book but I rarely get to read these days other than blogs and kids books. I do like a book that gets me thinking though.
Great points, T! What I like about telling a story in a blog post is that there are no interruptions. I had a garage sale with friends this past Saturday. Both are mums too. I think in our excitement to be heard with out the interruptions of our children we started to interrupt each other, and not really listen to each other’s stories. They wanted to hear one of my life stories so I told it in depth because we had so much time to just sit in my driveway, but I was interrupted by their questions, or by people buying. It makes me think I need to write that part of my story down …
To be completely honest with you, I started reading this but skipped through to the end. I have this book sitting in my pile ready to read and didn’t want to read any spoilers. I’m looking forward to reading it though.
I havent read that book. To be honest I’ve only just got back into reading books again. I usually get so engrossed by them that I want to read the whole book in one or two days and with a toddler that just doesn’t happen so I avoided them for a while. I’m currently reading Call the Midwife even though Ive seen the tv series because I love the story and characters so much. I kind of like that I’m reading only one chapter at a time of this book because it means the story lasts longer and I dream about the characters most nights 🙂
This sounds like my kind of book. I love books that make me think, leave wanting more, wondering what happens when the story ends, what hasn’t been told.
Never heard of it. I often find myself trotting out the same story for a variety of audiences. Must be the sanguine in me 😉
Visiting today from #teamIBOT x
Sounds like a fascinating read. Maybe one for my kindle. Is it a true story, do you know? I try to always avoid true stories. I’ve learned to desensitise a lot, but I still prefer not to burden myself with other people’s true pain if I can avoid it, I get enough of that in my job and in my life!
One notable exception to my “avoid autobiographies/bigographies” rule is “Running with scissors.” What. A. Read. Gripping, But very confronting too.
I have a story for every occasion, the problem is trying to get me to shut up…
It’s not a true story but it reads like that in a few places and does reference real books in it. I’ve read Running with Scissors too and yep definitely a confronting book.
I’m going to give it a go then, cheers.
I read this book for book club and we all had mixed reactions about the meaning and memories of our childhoods. It is an interesting book and you can come away with some different perspectives xx
I love how you said “Memories and emotions are so closely linked.”
I haven’t read the book. But now you have me intrigued …
Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
Sounds intriguing, I might have to look it up! I think the more time put between events and story tellings, or the more times a story is told, it begins to change and I often wonder if memories I have are actually accurate. It’s been a while since I read a book! x Aroha
Sounds like that book takes you on such an interesting journey. I have read back on my posts and you are so right. The emotion=on I wrote some stuff with was very intense some stuff I find hard to read not because I am embarrassed but because I am in a different frame of mind. I guess that is just it though are blog really are our diaries and they give us snippets of ourselves and our emotions from another time. So interesting though Thank you !