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A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past

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3.82  ·  Rating details ·  90 ratings  ·  17 reviews
“One of our true superstars of nonfiction” (David Foster Wallace), Lewis Hyde, author of The Gift and Trickster Makes This World, offers a playful and inspiring defense of forgetfulness by exploring the healing effect it can have on the human psyche.

We live in a culture that prizes memory—how much we can store, the quality of what’s preserved, how we might better document
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ebook, 384 pages
Published June 18th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Peter
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
not really sure about the lukewarm takes, I thought this was excellent. The format is certainly unusual for a work of nonfiction - it sort of imitates (to me) David Markson’s “This Is Not a Novel” series, and the format itself is a practice of memory and forgetting. Some of the takes were definitely more interesting than others, but it’s an incredible new way of writing, this probably means I have to go and read The Gift now.

One of my great regrets in reading this is not taking Prof Hyde’s
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Kent Winward
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it
It might have been four stars, but I forgot.

This was an interesting exercise in collage. You can access things differently through this type of impressionistic snippet writing. I enjoy David Shields takes more, but both seem to be cut from a similar genre that has emerged to address this current technological thrust that makes everything, including this review a pebble into the roaring river of content. Contrast this with all the things we cannot forget and that is the sense I pulled from
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James Kelly
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a great book, a fun and insightful read. An episodic discourse on what it means to forget, remember, and live in between these two states of forgetting and remembering - to just be, and to be well, significant and effective in our humanness.
Agnes DiPietrantonio
Sorry but I lost interest half way through. Maybe it was the querky format
Robert Case
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating exploration of memory, myth, and culture.
David
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book held me rapt as it developed its themes of memory and forgetting. Some of the themes were more developed and others were tantalizingly fragmentary. Because a number of other authors and thinkers have plumbed these depths, this work surveys their thoughts and presents them at points in the ongoing presentation that help to build understanding. The apparent paradox of this book is that it is more about remembering than about forgetting. But it makes the critical point that memory is ...more
David
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From Homer to John Cage, from Nietzsche to Augustine to Zen, from creative work to horrific acts of violence...How to navigate memory and forgetting, hiding and revealing, healing,...I think every writer, scientist, journalist, policy wonk, philosopher & poet should read this, think about it, forget it, inhale it, and remember it at odd moments.

25 years ago when I was struggling to define the health part of agroecosystem health, Margaret Atwood suggested I read Hyde's The Gift. That was
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Jane
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A nearly perfect book. I did not especially like the subtitle "Getting Past the Past" which makes it sound like a self-help book when in fact it's just a beautiful musing on the nature of memory and forgetting. It gets a bit weedy at times but otherwise is so profound and thought-provoking.
Steven Borowiec
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm a journalist who covers East Asia, countries where disagreements over the past still prevent cooperation in the present day and people are arguing over things that happened decades ago. In interviewing the activists and politicians involved in these movements, I constantly hear about the need to remember, to commemorate what happened, that until there is consensus on the past, and everyone's grievances have been addressed to their satisfaction, it is impossible to move forward.

I read this
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Eliza
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Memories that endure no matter how our contexts change can be a hindrance, not a boon, if the history they carry forward obscures the new setting rather than illuminating it.”

Some interesting nuggets here and plenty of thought provoking theses to wrap your mind around, if sometimes a little too tortuous for me. If this is an experiment to test that forgetfulness can be more useful than memory (as Hyde posits), then he more than proves his hypothesis. I could have done without the 4th notebook,
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Kristine
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
A Primer for Forgetting by Lewis Hyde is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late June.

4 parts, labeled as ‘Notebooks’, about the philosophic qualities of forgetting and memory, plus poetry, literature, mythology & tribal lore, English definition of language-specific terms having to do with such, diary entries of the author’s dreams, photos of objects, artifacts, and works of art, and forgetting or lapse of memory within a tragic/criminal act or on behalf of a nation toward its own
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Mike Errico
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
A “thought experiment” that looks at the role of forgetting in our lives via a series of interconnected essays. In short: we pay for cloud storage and hard drives and digital archiving; the internet remembers and sells every move we make; but in many ways, forgetting is the more creative, clarifying, and forward-thinking choice. The essays give the whole piece a kind of staccato feel, but overall, I think the experiment worked incredibly well. Hyde makes forgetting cool again.
Lisa
I loved the title and thought I would appreciate the concept, but... it was too fragmentary and wandering for me. I'm fine with that as commentary on forgetting, but not for actually reading as a collection. DNF
Mason
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A delightful compendium of meditations on the art in forgetting. Unlike his previous work, Hyde aims for simple moments of clarity rather than sweeping revelation, his subject matter of release demanding a flexibility in form.
Zach
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best of Markson (style) filtered through a philosopher's mind. So many potent quotables.
Sharath Reddy
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at why forgetting can be valuable, as seen through many other events and stories
Frank Delaere
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful fragments. The one that that today sticks the most in my mind are the pages on Thoreau and "fertile sadness".
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“Every act of memory is an act of forgetting. The tree of memory set its roots in blood. To secure an ideal, surround it with a moat of forgetfulness. To study the self is to forget the self. In forgetting lies the liquefaction of time. The Furies bloat the present with the undigested past. “Memory and oblivion, we call that imagination.” We dream in order to forget.” 0 likes
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