Goldman, Interior Circuit jacket art 9780802122568From the air, on a flight in, what the eye mostly picks out from the megacity’s stunning enormousness is a dense mosaic of flat rooftops, tiny rectangles and squares, and a preponderance of reddish brown, the volcanic tezontle stone that has forever been the city’s most common construction material, also other shades of brown brick and paint, imposing an underlying coloration scheme. But there are also many concrete and metallic surfaces and many buildings painted in pastel and more vivid hues like bright orange, and rows of trees, and parks and fútbol fields, and modern towers rising here and there, in Polanco, Santa Fe, and the august Torre Latino Americano at the edge of the Centro, and the straight and snaking traffic arteries, beady and silvery in the sunlight, and an infinite swarm of streets. You think, of course, awed, of the millions and millions of lives going on down there. (I reflexively think, as I have for years whenever flying into the city, that she’s down there somewhere, living her mysterious life beneath one of those tiny squares, her too, and also her, Chilangas, female residents of the DF, who over the past two decades I’ve met only once or twice but who left an impression, women who almost surely no longer remember me.) From the air, perhaps because it is such a predominately flat city and almost all the roofs are flat and because so much of it is brown, Mexico City looks like a map of itself, drawn on a scale of 1:1, as in the Borges story “The Exactitude of Science,” which refers to “a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point.”

Okay, full disclosure:  I’m not exactly a gamer.  In my house, you’ll find the likes of Skyrim, Call of Duty, and The Sims along with more than one brand of video console, but none of these are mine.  When I was eleven, you see, my mother sat me down in the doctor’s office as my right hand cramped into a seemingly permanent knot, convinced I was experiencing some kind of debilitating vitamin deficiency.  Nope.  It was Atari joystick carpal tunnel.  That was a thing.  And now you understand.  I’ve been on the wagon since 1987, but I’m willing to bail for Meriwether:  An American Epic, a role-playing game-in-development created by Sortasoft LLC designer Joshua DeBonis and writer (and, full disclosure, my friend) Carlos Hernandez.  The two met roughly five years ago via the Board Game Designers Forum in New York City where Hernandez learned of DeBonis’ fascination with the Lewis and Clark expedition and DeBonis learned of Hernandez’s gift for narrative.  Thus the Meriwether wheels were set in motion.  As Meriwether gathers funds from its Kickstarter campaign as well as interest from the likes of The Atlantic Monthly, I asked DeBonis and Hernandez to sit down for a conversation that covered everything from game design to the craft of writing to Borges to Roger Ebert to my eminent retreat from the real world sometime around November of 2013 when Meriwether officially drops.

Whenever I begin to feel bad about the sorry state of my memory, I like to consider the Borges story “Funes the Memorious.” The titular character, Ireneo Funes, “suffers” from having an outlandishly excellent memory–so good he has to hide himself away in a dark room, so all the intricate detail of his own experience won’t haunt him forever.

In the story, Funes essentially loses the ability to understand abstraction and generalization, because he’s so mired in the particular. He becomes a kind of monster, inhuman. Truly, it’s a redeeming story for those of us with sieves for a mind. Memory can be a disability.

It is an interesting story because it’s a Borges story, of course, but it’s always been of particular interest to me because my memory has always been so terrible. I’ll often forget a certain word–even quite common words–or name, and in the process of trying to remember, forget even those word clusters around it that should be helping me remember. It’s as though my forgetfulness is a metastasizing tumor that feeds on my will to recall. The harder I try, the more I forget.

So, as anyone with any self-esteem would do, I’ve sought to find a silver lining, something about my forgetfulness that will save me from feeling like an absolute failure. My solution–whether reasonable or not–has been to associate forgetfulness with fiction. More specifically, to associate the capacity to forget, with the ability to create. Nice trick, huh? (Of course, as a teen, this impulse also resulted in a whole lot of lying, but that’s a different post.)

I wonder how many other fiction writers suffer from bad memories.