9780547519272_hresPart One

These then are some of my first memories. But of course as an account of my life they are misleading, because the things one does not remember are as important; perhaps they are more important.

Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being

I was standing when I came to. Not lying down. And it wasn’t a gradual waking process. It was darkness darkness darkness, then snap. Me. Now awake.

It was hot. My thin shirt clung to my back and shoulders, and my underwear was bunched into a sweaty wad. The heat left the ground in wavy lines, and the air was tinged blue with diesel exhaust. A woman in a burqa pushed past me. A small man in a ragged red vest ducked around me. He was hunched under the massive steel trunk on his back; the corner of the trunk nicked my shoulder as he maneuvered by. I was in the center of a crowd, half surging for the train, half surging for the exits. I stood still. I had no idea who I was. This fact didn’t panic me at first. I didn’t know enough to panic.

David MacLean

Your book The Answer to the Riddle is Me is subtitled “A Memoir of Amnesia.” Isn’t that a contradiction?

Yes and no. On the surface, it has the pleasing allure of an oxymoron. But deeper in, one of the things I remember best in my life is the time when I had no memory. My brain was stripped and open to sensory data. I think most of my life I treat life like triage as I move from errand to errand, chore to chore. These errands and chores create in my brain a hierarchy of the data I take in, things that aren’t associated with whatever task at hand get winnowed out of my consciousness. When I woke up on the train platform in India, I had no narrative, no chore, no task at hand, and so the sensory data I was receiving wasn’t ranked by any hierarchy. It flattened the world so that all data was of similar importance. The birds in the rafters were as important as the train in front of me. This feeling haunts me. It has made me aware of how much of the world I miss on a daily basis. In some ways I remember the feeling of no memory better than I remember anything else.

Strange things are happening in Ampersand, Mass. (Keyhole Press). In this collection of short stories by William Walsh, there is pornography, amnesia, obsession, a real life muse, a cross-eyed teddy bear, shoplifting, and a barber running from heart disease. These tales run the gamut from fantastical and bizarre to sweet and touching to heartbreaking and morose. Sounds like life—like most towns, big or small. But in his unique point of view, Walsh unveils relationships that are familiar, and yet, not quite right—a twist or oddity that makes these tales his own.

Mr. Proffitt, I’m going to stop you right there. When I thank you for your time, I believe I speak for all of us here tonight sitting around this very long picnic-like table in this drafty back room. I never thought I would set foot in a restaurant named Crabs ‘R’ Us, a place with sawdust on the floor and no mirror in the Men’s room, but here we are. I also never thought that my partner, Mr. Robinson down there at the end, would stretch the truth to get me to leave my family up in Portland this morning for a pestilent hell-hole like Elk Cove, but again, here we are. There are firsts for everything, I suppose. And Mr. Robinson, you sir, are in for quite the car ride home.