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!