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All I remember is forgetting

All I Remember is Forgetting is a novel about the complex weaving of memory, relationships and works of art. We observe these through the eyes of Roger Phillips, whom we first encounter washed up and living in his car after the failure of a third serious relationship. Unsuccessfully married twice, Roger has not navigated matrimony as well as he might. Instead he has escaped into a world of painting, photography and sculpture. The main driving force behind the narrative is a wooden box containing Roger’s collection of 600 art postcards. These are pictures collected from galleries and museums around the world. Thirty years in the collecting, it took Roger’s second wife, Margot, only fifteen minutes to pitch them all into a landfill north of Auckland. Also missing were his most treasured books. Gone were all the stories from the myths of the Greeks and Romans on which he fed his imagination. So much so, in fact, that he is convinced that Eris, goddess of strife and discord, has been on a mission to ruin his life. While every book held special meaning, it was to each postcard that Roger attached his most personal recollections – the gallery, the surrounding city, the occasion and the person he was with. Each a complex narrative. All the memories of his life were tied to those small pieces of card; suddenly they were lost for ever. Art had always been Roger’s escape, his safe haven, but also his erotica, wrapping him in the beauty and hidden narratives in the lives of artists and their models. The imperfect fragments of Roger’s life show us that love is not best understood through art. Roger fails to see the philosophy of kintsugi, the Japanese art of golden repair. Breakage and mending are part of the history of your life, to be celebrated not disguised. This is a many-layered exercise in ekphrasis, where dramatic verbal descriptions of works of art are layered with descriptions of Roger’s married life. In some cases both become so entwined that they form an entirely new layer of art. The novel weaves the highs and lows of Roger’s journey; both the pain and the humour. Through the lens of great art and its creators we find mirrors, reflections and the distortion between life and art. We travel from Sheffield and London to Paris and New York, before coming firmly to rest in New Zealand. Do not believe everything that Roger tells you, but remember the words of Oscar Wilde: it is only through art that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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