I’ve read so many books, and I remember almost none of them. Plots, characters, worlds—they’re gone the moment I close the page. Just the other day my spouse asked me if I’d read any Bridgerton books, and I said quite confidently that I never had—only later to see that I’d written a review of one of them just the week before. I used to feel pretty bad about this! Surely if you were reading properly you were reading critically. How dare I say I liked a book if I couldn’t even remember what it was about?
Eventually, though, I cottoned onto the fact that I read fiction for the immediate emotional experience. If a story doesn’t stir an emotional reaction in me, it’s as if it doesn’t exist. Even for stories I’ve loved, sometimes all I remember is a certain tenor of emotion. A strength of feeling. Which is how it can be simultaneously true that one of the most fondly-remembered books of my childhood was also one that I’d forgotten entirely. I couldn’t remember the title, author, or even what it was about. But what I remembered was the figure of someone who had a male body, but was not male—a father who was not a man—and a powerful feeling of recognition and yearning. Somewhere in those forgotten pages, I had seen not just myself—but also something I wanted for myself.