One of the purposes of this blog — aside from giving me a place to proselytize — is to keep track of the projects (great and small) I take on in the next two years of school. So far, I’ve been much more focused on the large projects (figuring out how to live ethically, submitting stories, searching for jobs, writing a novel) to think about what else I’d like to add to my goals this year.
But lately I’ve been thinking a more approachable project might be just what I need to feel like I’ve accomplished something every day. Also, new ideas make me happy.
So. My newest project.
At the end if Fahrenheit 451, our protagonist, Guy Montag, meets up with a vagabond band of book lovers outside the city, all of whom have memorized a text or part of a text. They became the books that the firefighters were trying to destroy, preserving them in their own memories for a time when people would want to return to reading. Montag admits he knows some of the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Revelation, and they incorporate him into their library of people.
It won’t surprise you that this was my favorite part of the book. Amid the destruction and dubious tone of the ending, here is this lovely idea: that the great books of our society will survive through people.
(Anecdote: If you don’t believe people can become books, I once saw a man reciting Dante’s Inferno in Florence — we watched him for nearly an hour and he showed so sign of stopping when we left.)
After Bradbury died, I sat down and reread Fahrenheit and the last chapter made me wonder. If I was going to become a book, to memorize the text of something to preserve it, what would it be? Now, as you can imagine after my post about reading and choosing favorite books, etc., this was no easy task. But for the sake of this project, I did settle on a book I love: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
The goal of the project is very simple: I’m going to see how much of Frankenstein I can commit to memory. The edition I own is about 200 pages long. If I learn a page a day, it will take just over 6.5 months to memorize the book.
Please understand, I’m not at all confident I’ll succeed. Prose is much harder to memorize than verse and Frankenstein is something of a dense read, despite its slight length. But in this case, the value of the project in my view isn’t whether I succeed or not. It’s the undertaking. And I’m excited to try. I haven’t had to memorize anything since college, so it will definitely be a challenge.
For the blog this means once a month, for the next seven months, I’ll update you on my progress. And if you’re interested, readers, I wouldn’t mind some company. Something to try? It could be important when society as we know it collapses.
What is your favorite passage or poem that you know by heart? Or, if you could memorize any text, which would it be?