Saturday, December 06, 2008

"Funes" and "H.M."

On Thursday, Levi sent me this link—shades of Borges's "Funes the Memorious":

"No one can imagine what it's really like," says Jill Price, 42, "not even the scientists who are studying me."

The Californian, who has an almost perfect memory, is trying to describe how it feels. She starts with a small demonstration of her ability. "When were you born?" she asks.

She hears the date and says: "Oh, that was a Wednesday. There was a cold snap in Los Angeles two days later, and my mother and I made soup."


She can also date events that were reported in the media, provided she heard about them at the time. When and where did the Concorde crash? When was O.J. Simpson arrested? When did the second Gulf war begin? Price doesn't even have to stop and think. She can effortlessly recite the dates, numbers and entire stories.

"People say to me: Oh, how fascinating, it must be a treat to have a perfect memory," she says. Her lips twist into a thin smile. "But it's also agonizing."

Yesterday in the Times, there was an obit for "H.M.":

He knew his name. That much he could remember.

He knew that his father’s family came from Thibodaux, La., and his mother was from Ireland, and he knew about the 1929 stock market crash and World War II and life in the 1940s. But he could remember almost nothing after that.


H. M. could recount childhood scenes: Hiking the Mohawk Trail. A road trip with his parents. Target shooting in the woods near his house.

“Gist memories, we call them,” Dr. Corkin said. “He had the memories, but he couldn’t place them in time exactly; he couldn’t give you a narrative.”

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

View My Stats