Memory assists perception, grounding our understanding of those around us and those who have left their traces through time – but how reliable is memory really? Memory is malleable, shaped and shifted through consolidation and reconsolidation. Consolidation is the neurological process that stores memories after an event’s occurrence; reconsolidation refers to a process whereby consolidated memories later become unstable, causing false or loose recall.
Reconsolidation: Or, it’s the ghosts who will answer you is a lyrical montage born out of the eternal loss of a loved one. Powerfully crafted during grief’s inertia, Janice Lee elegantly weaves the present with recollections of a tenuous past, arresting memory’s flexible and vulnerable position in the lifelong process of mourning. A eulogy for a loved one – pure and honest – Reconsolidation is a poetic search for a lost connection.
Janice Lee (she/they) is a Korean American writer, teacher, spiritual scholar, and shamanic healer. She is the author of 7 books of fiction, creative nonfiction & poetry: KEROTAKIS (Dog Horn Press, 2010), Daughter (Jaded Ibis, 2011), Damnation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013), Reconsolidation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2015), The Sky Isn’t Blue (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016), Imagine a Death (Texas Review Press, 2021), and Separation Anxiety (CLASH Books, 2022). A roundtable, unanimous dreamers chime in, a collaborative novel co-authored with Brenda Iijima, is also forthcoming in 2022 from Meekling Press. An essay (co-authored with Jared Woodland) is featured in the recently released 4K restoration of Sátántangó (dir. Béla Tarr) from Arbelos Films. She writes about interspecies communication, plants & personhood, the filmic long take, slowness, the apocalypse, architectural spaces, inherited trauma, and the Korean concept of han, and asks the question, how do we hold space open while maintaining intimacy? Incorporating shamanic and energetic healing, she teaches workshops on inherited trauma, healing and writing, and practices in several lineages, including the medicine tradition of the Q’ero, Zen Buddhism (in the tradition of Plum Village and Thich Nhat Hanh), plant & animal medicine, and Korean shamanic ritual (Muism). She currently lives in Portland, OR where she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Portland State University.
I'm not going to rate this because how can you rate someone's grief?
Oddly, this is the second book I've read that a friend wrote about the death of their mother. Both are powerful books. The other is by Phil Jourdan.
This, though, reminds me much more of my life and my family. I'd prefer not to state the similarities, but it makes this a pretty emotional book for reasons that stretch beyond the confines of the text and their context.
But this is memorable and it's difficult. The sorrow is deep in every page, as is the feeling that your sorrow is insufficient or incorrect.
I remember when I spent the weekend in a hospital after almost dying, how everyone said I must have a new view on life, how I'll probably be cherishing every day.
But none of that happened to me. I just carried on living, feeling wrong for not doing it differently, for not being a walking selfhelp book, for not being Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.
But, yes, this is a great book about grief, mourning, loss, and what it means to live past and through trauma. What our memories mean and why the ghosts matter. Why they haunt us, even when we pretend they're not real, not scratching at the edge of our vision.
Also, I've never come across anyone who feels the exact same way as I do about windshield wipers.
the memory is relentless, and the more you wish to forget, the more it shows itself. the less you hear from it, the more you are afraid you will lose the memory forever.
very moved by what janice lee dares to chase and trace in her writing and, in her own words, her great capacity to hold many angles of simultenaeity in her work. feels like a very warm and raw thing in my hands while reading this, and this book launches you right into the center of all that is whirling around in grief and in living amongst (as) ghosts.
Everybody goes through loss, but not everybody can articulate it with such resonating clarity as Janice Lee does in her sort of essay, kind of memoir, almost prose poem RECONSOLIDATION: OR, IT’S THE GHOSTS WHO WILL ANSWER YOU. Yet this isn’t a dry factual text, it’s more catholic and impressionistic.
The short book, written months after the sudden death of her mother from a brain aneurysm, captures the shocking finality and banal regularity of death. Lee writes about the fluidity of memory and how memory changes how we think about what we’re thinking about. In this case, language itself becomes if not an obstacle to recall her mother, then a filter by which that form is forever changed.
There is a bit of a ghost story here, too, which is no surprise given the subtitle of the book, but it’s not supernatural except if you parse that word to be almost like an overly intense version of the natural. For what is more natural than death? But it is only by closely examining it, by acknowledging its inevitability and recognizing that death haunts our every living moment, can we accept it as natural. It is this process that leads to living of an authentic life.
Lee punctuates her tale with related quotes from other writers, which helps to expand her personal story to a universal one, but she would connect to her readers with or without the help of collaborators. If we follow her through the door she opens to something we’re all intimate with, whether we know it or not, it’s a very moving experience.
Somehow I finished two books about losing mothers today, but this was definitely the better of the two. There are a lot of very complicated ideas that get tossed around about loss, memory, and selfhood, but ultimately what's striking about this book is its very honest, straightforward portrayal of loss: the trauma of losing a mother, and the specific moments of pain along the way. We get a very elaborate, well-drawn portrait of Lee's family in a very small space, the things that keep them close but (especially) far away. There are insightful scenes of Lees mother, some positive and others negative, but what's most important is the absence of her: how ghosts, in some ways, can be more real than living people. It's a powerful, striking book despite how short it is, with a lot of meditations (despite how conceptual it is) on the impossibility of intellectualizing grief, and there were a few bits that resonated with me really intensely for mostly personal reasons; though in the end it's tough to rate or review, since how do you talk about something so real that happened to someone you know, even when it's written down in a book?
A powerful book, dominance between emotion, analysis, and the language flow seems blended. It's an intensely personal book that instantly brings the reader into that intimacy. Very strong, and very moving.
“My memory loss moves through my body like a ghost, the memories that reappear swing my limbs in alternating motions, I am a rearranged body, and again I am stalling. I am stalling.”
A gorgeous quick read. It’s so difficult to write in the aftermath of the death of a loved one, especially a parent. Yet, the white space and structure allows the writing to breath rather than become overwhelming to absorb. Beautifully done.
“The memories congregate like / a slow-moving herd of dots.” * Janice’s brief work is a fragmentary piece examining Janice’s ghostly dreams of her mother, who died of a brain aneurism — alongside memories of her and philosophical quotes and ideas about memory. It’s a slim but rich text.
Janice Lee touches on the topic of death and memory so elegantly in this book. It's interesting to me, that the book appears to be written mostly as means to cope, to understand her feelings, and in some ways seems as it is written because you only get one chance to write about death after immediately loosing your mom—where perhaps it's a unique writing opportunity. Janice in the process of writing, and more so grieving, finds herself reading a lot, which appears as frequent quotes throughout. We see her frustrated at her own process of grieving, frustrated at the process of writing about grieving, and it is uniquely sad in this way. With the inclusion of the quotations and all, it almost reads as if it's the journal she was writing in when beginning to cope with loss of her mother, and I think it's incredibly sad, but brilliant.
Reconsolidation: Or, it’s the ghosts who will answer you by Janice Lee. This is a gift: a lyric essay about the sudden death of her mother, and the afterlife, a ghostly presence, created in memory and in text. Lee writes a beautifully measured grief, its rhythms and contemplations. And there they are, “mother and daughter locked in death match after death match” (20), “mother and daughter in life” (76).
This is a lovely extended meditation on memory and maternal loss. It brilliantly captures the moment of fresh mourning, when the need to remember is most urgent, and the inevitability of forgetting most heartbreaking.