Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I'm sure you've read scores of stories. You've immersed yourself in hundreds of characters and hundreds of places, plots with suspense, drama, love, and fear.

And for many of these stories, you can't remember a single thing. At least, you can't without trying pretty hard.

But then, there are others.

For some reason, a moment will wiggle into your brain. A feeling or an image will paint itself into your memory. You might even hide it away, protect it, and make it part of who you are.

Isn't that amazing?! You can't predict it. You can't expect it. It either happens or it doesn't, and a writer is truly blessed when a reader comes forward months or years later and shares this experience.

As I sit here (well, actually lie on the couch), some of these story moments immediately leap to my mind. I'll never forget the incredible sense of bond among the older sister and brother as prisoners in Flowers in the Attic. I remember Mr. Halloway's thoughts about why the autumn people chose 3:00 A.M. to arrive in town in Something Wicked This Way Comes. I remember the strange despair of Sam sitting down to an everyday dinner after living the events of a hundred lives in Lord of the Rings.

More recently, I couldn't block out the voice in the dark in Anne Frasier's Before I Wake. (High five, Anne!)

What do you remember from the stories you've experienced? Care to share?

Glue. You've gotta love it!

UPDATE: Be sure to check out the post about the Firestorm of 1871 written by JimmyJames after being inspired by this one.


Chemical Billy said...

One of my favorites is near the very end of José Saramago's Blindness. The doctor's wife, waking up, wonders - for just a moment before opening her eyes - if she has gone blind.

Murakami's "The Elephant Vanishes" stuck with me for years after I forgot the author's name or the name of the story (thank goodness for Google).

Susan Abraham said...

You may have read some of mine now and then on my blog, Jason. :-)
To encapsulate my story moments, they're mostly from snippets of british literary fiction which I read a lot at one time where radical women characters escape drudgery or emotional imprisonment through drastic descisions that take them on a new spiritual journey or physical adventure and leaves them with hope and peace at the end.
I have many slices of this:
Perhaps all the Iris Murdoch & Elizabeth Jane Howard books did these for me.
And probably the first that turned up when I was still a teen was Winifred Holby who wrote the The Land of Green Ginger.

Lovely post, my friend. Clever & thoughtful. :-)

Anne said...

So many... The ending to Stephen King's Desperation (I actually sobbed...), a passage in Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, when the heroine watches her young sister's boyfriend and realizes she's growing, the awe I constantly felt while reading A Prayer For Owen Meany, or the moment when I realized what the dark secret was in Gaetan Soucy's The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches.
To name a (very, very) few.

Scott said...

Jake Spoon dies like a man in Lonesome Dove after living the life of a coward.

Thomas Covenant rapes an innocent girl in Lord Foul's Bain.

A man shoots two Bush people, whom he regards as nothing more than baboons, that guided the woman he loves through the desert (The Burning Shore). The woman turns on him and destroys his life.

The death of the two hounds in Where The Red Fern Grows.

Hal Courtney's father is drawn and quartered by Slow John in Birds of Prey.

There is so much more...

jenn said...

I tend to be branded more by the emotions that a story conjures in me than any detail in particular, like the overall feeling of frustration at the medical profession, and awe of the women in "The Birth House", or the contradictory sense of empowerment and futility in "Reading Lolita in Tehran".

But there is also the occassional snippet that stays with me:

- The grace and quiet intelligence of Helen Burns and the awe in which Jane Eyre holds her friend always inspires a sombre calm in me.
- Grace's ability to make the tiniest, neatest stitches in "Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood.
- The grotesque image of an middle-aged stripper holding and sobbing over the limp remains of her dead boa constrictor from... I think "The Diviners" by Margaret Laurence...

Jaye Wells said...

I have an abyssmal memory when it comes to books. It's almost like breathing, I guess. You don't have to remember to do it, but it's essential to survival.

"Who is John Galt?" Many people hate this book, but it's one of the best beginnings ever.

Erica Jong's "zipless f***."

The moment C.S. Lewis sent the children through the wardrobe.

Anne Rice gave me many scenes throughout the Vampire Chronicles --she's such a sensual writer it's had not to picture everything like you're there.

Geez, Jason, I could spend all day remembering. Thanks for the cool post.

briliantdonkey said...

The first time a character finds a rose and a note in "Gone but not forgotten" by Philip Margolin.

Andy Dufresne having to crawl through miles of raw sewage to freedom in "Shawshank redemption" by stephen King.

The releif Gandalf feels at Frodo NOT seeing the writing on the ring only to be replaced moments later by confirmation in Lord of the Rings.

Jake finding out how he died in the Gunslinger series by Stephen King.

That is just a few, great post.


Bev said...

The first thing that pops into my head after reading your post is the scene in Gone With the Wind (yes, the book---I hated the movie) where Rhett says "frankly my dear..."

The description of the main character in Kathleen Winsor's "Forever Amber" (which I read behind my mother's back when I was 11 -- she thought it had too much "adult" content (so she should have hidden it better!)

The descriptions of the places in any of James Michener's many books (I've always wanted to write like make the reader "SEE" the scene)

Yup, Jason, you've done it again...hit on that memory cell that will have me thinking about this all day


Wavemancali said...

The image of the perfectly formed 6 toed footprint when Sophie walks out of the creek in bare feet in The Chrysalids by Wyndham.

I can always hear the gunshots in my head and think of what a reality shock it would be when the first walker is killed in The Long Walk by Stephen King

Michele said...

I'm strange. I equate the scenes I remember to music.

There's a scene in one of Jayne Ann Krentz's books that deals with the arcane fighting form of Vanza. In my mind, the bad guy pacing himself as he approaches the hero using the step techniques is in line with the opening sounds of one of Bon Jovi's songs.

When I read the Carpathian series, I hear Yoshi. The Game boy background music my son was playing as I read next to him.

When I read DUNE by Frank Herbert, I hear the newer version of a song from HAIR - when they were singing about the drug scene. I can't separate the music from the book, the scene from the visions they recreate no matter where I am.

Music is my glue. It keeps the stories alive.

anne frasier said...

jason, thanks for the kind words about before i wake. i know you really liked that book. i have to admit i think is has some rough spots, but i can also see where it has elements that would appeal to you.

as far as the glue... hidden river by adrian mckinty had a scene at the very end that i loved. a killer is coming, and the main character is trapped and knows he can't get away. this is it. and he thinks: Come, assassin.

so much in two words. i loved that.

Anonymous said...

Chemical Billy, great to see you! How have you been?

Susan, Anne, Scott, Jenn, Jaye, BD, Bev, Wavemancali, Michele, Anne, thanks for all of the amazing responses! I think we just constructed a pretty good reading list. ;)

mermaid said...

When Billy buries his hunting dog (can't remember if it was Little Ann or Old Dan), and the The Red Fern Grows.

I'm already thinking of all the books my daughter will read, and all the movies she will see, and the places they will live in her heart.

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

I'm finally getting around to my blog reading again, and what a wonderful post to begin with in yours. It's soul reaching and thought provoking at the same time.

Seems like we share a bit of the sticky substance. I have those same thoughts about Flower in the Attic and Something This Way Comes. When it comes to authors, King continuously keeps me glued, or “un-glued,” whichever the case may be. ;) The idea of the Gypsy Lempke putting a curse on Billy Halleck and using his own wishes of becoming “thinner” was astounding. Just imagining each single word whispered to those he cursed runs chills down my spine.

Another of my favorite authors is Patricia Cornwell. Everyone of her books have kept me glue to the pages until I reach the end. She slices through Scarpetta’s adventures and slams you right into the rotting flesh and boneyards in all her novels. Each one better than the last, but I must say that Body Farm left quite an impression on me. So much so, that you’ve sparked an interest in re-reading all my favorites. Thanks for the great post.

JLB said...

I love those!

The first one that pops to mind at the moment, is the end of a chapter in Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, when Nedry is trying to run away, but gets stuck in some mud and hunted by the velociraptors. The final description is something about him holding his own warm intestines... :D

And I remember one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (possibly On the Banks of Plum Creek) wherein she, Ma, and the sisters are living through an especially hot summer, and on a particularly hot day, Ma prays for a breath of air, and then they get a little breeze... I always think of that scene on especially hot days.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post... I’ll be running these through my mind all evening.

JimmyJames said...

My favorite stories were of the far north with White Fang and Call of the Wild by Jack London.
I also did a glue post after reading yours relating how an event in a community can affect ones character and values.


Shesawriter said...

Can't remember a book, but there's a scene from the movie Yentl when BS has just lost her dad and she's singing, and there's a line that says, 'the trees are so much taller' now that he's gone. I remember feeling the same way when my dad died. The world felt so much more intimidating afterward.

Anonymous said...

Mermaid, I've had the pleasure of a couple of those experiences already. My daughters are 7 and 5. I can't wait to see what will resonate with them.

Joanne, that's amazing! I remember that moment in Thinner also. We had very similar reading interests.

JLB, that's wonderful you even get a sense of touch from a story--the cold air.

JimmyJames, that was an astounding post. Excellent. Excellent. I've linked to it in this post.

Shesawriter, so poignant. The description really hits deep. I haven't experienced that, but even reading your recollection had an effect on me.