When I was younger, my friends and I could recite huge chunks of the Harry Potter novels to each other. Now, I don’t think that I could quote a single line from Harry Potter if I tried. Years of studying literature have taught me to memorise useful lines from novels, poems and plays – and to forget them once they are no longer useful in order to make room for new things. Which is why I still write down phrases that excite me, and why I won’t remember that quote the next day when I’ve had to think about something else.
The last novels that I did a particularly good job of memorising were The Bell Jar and Play It As It Lays. For a module in Modern American Women’s Writing, I decided that I wanted to write my exam on these two books. We got to see the exam paper beforehand and I picked a question relating to mental and physical illness. Then I spent weeks reading the books, highlighting pertinent passages, copying them out onto paper, copying them onto a Word document, printing out the Word document and highlighting them again, then copying them numerous times onto more sheets of paper and eventually condensed them so they would fit onto a few flashcards. What I ended up with was about 70% of each novel, along with a smattering of critical quotations, committed to memory. I aced the exam – of course. Then promptly forgot it all when I had to start studying for another module. If I still had those trusty flashcards, though, I bet I could have a go at reciting at least one of the novels.
English students – you know what I’m talking about, right?
Any books that you know off by heart?