RARA-AVIS: My Alzheimer's book

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 06 Sep 2001

First, Mark Sullivan asked why I chose certain novels in my revisit of Michael Collins. I wish I had an intellectual reason but the truth is I unpacked a box of paperbacks and found several by Collins. THE BRASS RAINBOW
 and BLUE DEATH were two I was reasonably sure I had not read. It wasn't easy to separate the read from the unread.

So this brought to mind the fact that I have been reading mystery novels for over four decades. My memory of many of them is very dim. Now and then I reread a novel that I know I have read and it is like a new book to me. This is not true of all of them. Some stick more in my mind. The shockers when I was in my early teens. Spillane's I, THE JURY and THE BIG KILL and Chandler's LITTLE SISTER and THE LONG GOODBYE. Certainly I could never forget much of Fred Brown and a few others discovered in my teens. But beyond that discovery phase, it is more selective. There are some novels I know are very good but the distinct memory is not there. Other writers, who may be flawed, stand out like beacons. I still remember the impact of Cornell Woolrich, especially RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK.

So as I grow older, I have to consider the possibility that I may develop Alheimer's. I have experienced family members who have gone down this way and consider it a terrible fate. Yet, it may happen. A friend and I have discussed making a pact that if this happens to one of us, the other one will visit and hand over a pistol and say "It's time. Do the right thing." But I don't believe that will happen.

So the day may come when all I need is one book. I will be able to read that book over and over again and it will be like the first time. No short term memory, yet otherwise aware, I can read and reread the same book with first time joy.

So what book would I choose? Instead of a gun to end it all, I might select a book that someone would hand me and until I lost the ability to read, that one book would be enough to entertain me.

THE LONG GOODBYE is a possibility as is THE BIG KNOCKOVER by Hammett. Alas, Chandler freaks, I generally prefer Hammett to Chandler and the Continental Op is my favorite. But GOODBYE is a great book. One other contender, less predictable perhaps, would be Howard Browne's THE TASTE OF ASHES.

I have a few years (I hope) to think it over and I will add other possibilities. But it is intriguing to think of what novel, read and experienced as if for the first time over and over again, I would choose.

Richard Moore

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