May 23, 2010

reading for resorption

We the people of the cruddy memory, in order to establish ourselves as beings capable of normal recollection, often watch and read the same things more than once in our lives. Ask me about a movie just two days after I watched it, and I could probably tell you my general impression of it, but not much else. When it comes to books, movies, and TV shows, is this goldfish-esque memory good or bad? A mixed bag, I think. For instance, Garden State the second time? Unfortunate. Replaying creepy Briony Tallis scenes from Atonement? Pure entertainment.

Reading and watching that which has already been read and seen may sound like an awful waste of time – and often is – but sometimes it's necessary. I first encountered Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking as a wide-eyed high school student, yet I could probably read it every few years and still find myself disgusted and disturbingly fascinated by its contents. History has never been a great love of mine. But this, I would voluntarily absorb again and again. I don't mind forgetting some things – how the first season of Lost ended exactly, for example. But it just doesn't seem right to forget about the godawful things that occurred in 1937...or, worse yet, to accept that they should fade away like everything else in one's lifetime.
"In contrast to Germany, where it is illegal for teachers to delete the Holocaust from their history curricula, the Japanese have for decades systematically purged references to the Nanking massacre from their textbooks. They have removed photographs of the Nanking massacre from museums, tampered with original source material, and excised from popular culture any mention of the massacre."
--The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang