Giveaway: MEMORY WALL by Anthony Doerr

Posted on 03 May 2012

It’s May, which means it’s Short Story Month, which means it’s the perfect time to spread some story love. I’m participating in the Fiction Writers Review’s 2012 Collection Giveaway Project, and you can reap the benefits — a free copy of Anthony Doerr’s Memory Wall.

I picked up my copy in October at the Ohioana Awards ceremony. Memory Wall won the fiction award, but Doerr was unable to attend the ceremony. In his place, he sent his mother and a beautiful acceptance speech that made the rest of us feel a little outclassed (or is that just me?).

The collection contains seven stories that grapple with what the New York Times called the “relentless fascination with memory and with the way memories are destroyed, eroded, drowned, faded or eaten away.”

The title story surrounds 74-year-old Alma Konachek, a South African woman who pays to have her memories preserved. Every night, Roger Tshoni and Luvo, his young accomplice, break into her house to sift through those memories in their search for the priceless fossil Alma’s husband discovered just before his death. An excerpt:

Things don’t run in order. There is no A to B to C to D. All the cartridges are the same size, the same redundant beige. Yet some took place decades ago and others take place last year. They vary in intensity, too: Some pull Luvo into them and hold him for fifteen or twenty seconds; others wrench him into Alma’s past and keep him there for half an hour. Moments stretch; months vanish during a breath. He comes up gasping, as if he has been submerged underwater; he feels catapulted back into his own mind.

Sometimes, when Luvo comes back into himself, Roger is standing besides him, an unlit cigarette fixed in the vertex of his lips, staring into Alma’s cryptic wall of papers and postcards and cartridges as if waiting for some essential explanation to rise up out of it.

Doerr is a particular inspiration to me because he won Ohioana’s Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant in 2000, eleven years before I did, and in that time has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments: four O. Henry Prizes, the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, and three Ohioana Book Awards, to name just a few. But more than that, he’s written complex and compelling stories.

To win a copy of Memory Wall, simply leave a comment on this post by midnight Pacific time on Thursday, May 31. Leave any comment you wish, but I encourage you to leave a memory. That’s right — any memory. I’ll choose a winner at random and announce the results on this blog. International entries are welcome. I may decide on a whim to name a runner-up to receive a copy of Living Arrangements, too.

Erika Dreifus is giving away a copy of Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision as part of this project, so stop by her site if you’d like to enter to win. If you want to participate in the Collection Giveaway Project yourself, go here. Good luck!

11 responses to Giveaway: MEMORY WALL by Anthony Doerr

  • Downith says:

    You had me at “International entries are welcome”.

    Okay,, here is a memory for an ad (I think it was for O’Henry bar??) that popped into head randomly about two weeks ago and which I have been performing for my children (with ACTIONS!) every since to their delight:

    “Caramel, you old smoothie, chocolate, let’s move it, wait, where’s the fudge, here comes the fudge, here comes the fudge”

    Sweet memories…

    I have searched youtube in vain.

    • Steve says:

      I agree that it was Oh Henry and I think the characters were dressed as the ingredients kind of like the fruits in the Fruit of the Loom commercials.

  • Averil Dean says:

    A memory . . .

    Well, I’m staying in Brianhead at the moment–a ski resort, though of course the snow has mostly melted by now. I came here for the first time with my family when I was about twelve. We all took ski lessons, but it was snowing hard and all we had to wear were jeans, so by the time the instructor finally rounded us up and took us on the chair lift, I was so wet and cold and frustrated that I took off my skis and trudged down the mountain.

    I grew to love skiing and snowboarding later. But not that day!

  • Teri says:

    I’m 9. It’s summer. I’m barefoot and I’ve been skipping along the riverbank when I slip on some black mud and slide slide slide, feet first and facedown, all the way to the water’s edge. I’m worried about the water moccasins and creepy-crawlies and mosquitoes. I’m worried that my shin hurts and might be bleeding, but I can’t see because of the mud. I’m wondering how in the hell I’m going to make it back up that slope all by myself.

  • Valerie says:

    I do a lot to promote the work of other writers. I think a free book is a nice karmic reward ;-)

  • Catherine says:

    I read an awarding-winning story of Doerr’s I can’t think where, but I know it startled me.

    A memory. Last week I met an Eritrean man in a bookshop. For some reason we talked of the ongoing wars in that region, along every borderline possible. There was one in Ogaden in Somalia in the seventies, that littered the area with shell-shocked men from both sides. One night, twenty years ago now, we drove up to our gate at Mogadishu. I was pregnant with my first, hot and tired and wanted to go to bed. There was an old soldier crouched in the dust. My husband tried to talk to him, but he was crazy, his mind wasn’t there. He wanted to stay in the dust and the dark and did for several nights before disappearing. Later I learned that there were legions of these damaged older men, forgotten, useless, stolen by wars on the hottest terrain on the earth. This man used to be a pharmacist, I learned, a father. I didn’t tell any of this to the Eritrean man. He would not have been surprised. We spoke of other things. Then we sighed a little, about the trauma of these hot places.

  • My book of memory-triggering questions asked yesterday, Is there anything you have now that you have kept from your childhood? In the last few days I have handled two things, both books. One is the paperback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird that I bought right after I saw the movie for the first time. This was 1963, and I’d read the book a few months before in a library copy on a long car trip to a cousin’s wedding. On the inside cover I pasted a picture and a little blurb about Harper Lee cut from Parade Magazine that said she was currently at work on a second novel. (I, of course, was at work on my first.)

    The other is a paperback of “Best Short Shorts” published by Scholastic Books that I bought in ninth grade (1962) for 25 cents. I reread “To Remember These Things” on the day a newspaper article noted that the last class to use the school building I attended was getting ready to walk across the stage (they’ve built a new school, ready for next year).

    To handle those books — on crumbling, acid-laced newsprint — is to touch somehow the girl that I was.

  • Sarah W says:

    A co-worker and I spent an unreasonable amount of time yesterday trying to work out the “Who’s on First” skit, which we both remember fondly. I don’t think we have it right, but it was a good time!

    Later in the afternoon, another co-worker said, “I don’t know,” and we both said, “Third base!”

  • dylan says:

    A house in Dallas. I am two years old. I have stuffed too much paper into the toilet, and now the toilet is overflowing. A party is about to start. I try to tell the adults, but they’re very tall and do not understand me.

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