Laura Mayer is an Associate Producer at WNYC.
Joshua Foer and Francine Prose
Foer and Prose read from their work to kick off this season's True Story: The KGB Nonfiction Reading Stories
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Readings from a memory champion and about a champion of recorded memories.
The opening night of this season's True Story: The KGB Nonfiction Reading Series—a, you guessed it, nonfiction reading series at KGB bar—explored memory, record-keeping and truth, with Joshua Foer (reading from his forthcoming book "Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remember Everything"), and Francine Prose (with a selection from "Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife"). The readers were introduced by one of the series' curators, Anna Wainwright.
Joshua Foer's book, "Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remember Everything," documents the year which he spent learning about memory, and trying to understand his own. Foer is a freelance journalist and, incidentally, Jonathan Safran Foer's younger brother.
Journalist and novelist Francine Prose's "Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife" examines the classic, "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl." Prose contends that "The Diary" stands as a work of carefully-crafted memoir, a true work of literature rather than just a record of Frank's life.
Foer on reading: "This is my first time ever doing a reading—like, outside of a wedding toast."
Foer on his research, which took a surprising turn: "I got really involved in this subculture. I ended up actually trying to train my own memory. I got a little bit obsessed with it, and ended up competing in the United States Memory Championship, sort of as an exercise in participatory journalism, which went awry because I ended up winning, which wasn't supposed to happen."
Foer on the trick of time: "Without memory, there'd be no time. But without time, there'd be no need for a memory...I mean psychological time: the tempo at which we experience life's passage."
Prose on revisions to Anne Frank's Diary: "Starting in the spring of 1944, Anne went back and rewrote her diary from the beginning. These revisions would cover 324 loose sheets of colored paper, and fill in the one year gap between the checked diary and the first black exercise book."
Prose on Frank's diary's impact when it was written: "Anne's diary was a fact of communal life. Like the potatoes they ate, the bathing arrangements that they worked out, the alarming break-ins downstairs, and it inspired curiosity and consternation in the people she was writing about."
Prose on the "truth" about Anne Frank's Diary: "The truth is that many of [the diary's scenes] did go through at least two [drafts]. Returning to the earliest pages, Anne cut, clarified...Thus, the book is not, strictly speaking, what we think of as a diary: a journal in which events are recorded as they occur, day by day. But rather, a memoir in the form of diary entries."