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April 14, 2011 - Image 80

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-04-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

arts & entertainment

Total Recall

Joshua Foer's journalistic journey
down memory lane.

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Sandee Brawarsky
Special to the Jewish News

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76

April 14 • 2011

too much, whose "memory was a
beast that gobbled up everything
it was fed." To forget was his real
ack in 2006, journalist
challenge.
Joshua Foer found himself
While he had read and heard
seated on a stage in the Con
stories about people who have
Ed headquarters in New York City,
memorized all 5,422 pages of
wearing earmuffs over earplugs,
the Babylonian Talmud and can
sweating as he flipped through two
identify the words that a pin stuck
decks of shuffled playing cards in
through any volume might pierce,
order to memorize their order.
he was eager to meet someone with
Television cameras rolled. After
that talent.
covering the United States Memory
When Foer first attended a
Championship — the Super Bowl
memory competition, he expected
of Science, in his words — the pre-
to find the participants to be freaks
vious year for Slate, he was a con-
of nature, but quickly realized they
testant, racing for perfect recall.
were regular, if quirky, folks who
Foer's first book, Moonwalking
had taught themselves memory-
with Einstein: The Art and Science
enhancing techniques — like the
of Remembering
reigning world
Everything
memory champion
(Penguin Press;
could memo-
MOONWA ., ING who
$26.95), is an
rize the precise
account of
order of 1,528 ran-
events leading
dom digits in an
to his champi-
hour, or any poem
onship season.
handed to him.
While his own
When a trainer
regimen of
suggested that
memory train-
Foer too could
ing and compe-
learn systems for
tition form the
remembering, and
book's narrative
offered to coach
core, he makes
him, Foer seized
enlightening
the opportunity.
detours. With
And what began as
originality, high
an experiment in
energy and an
participatory jour-
appealing blend of chutzpah and
nalism became an obsession and
humility, he writes of his own
an unexpected triumph.
adventures and probes the history
Foer, born in 1982 in Washington,
and literature of memory, the sci-
D.C., where he grew up, is the
ence of how the brain functions,
youngest of the three Foer brothers,
and the connections between mem- all of them now accomplished writ-
ory, identity and culture.
ers (Franklin Foer, until recently
Foer portrays the grand masters
editor of the New Republic, is the
of memory over the centuries —
author of How Soccer Explains the
those known for their remarkable
World; and Jonathan Safran Foer
power; scientists and philosophers
has written the novels Everything
who've studied memory; and the
is Illuminated and Extremely Loud
mental athletes, trainers and huck-
and Incredibly Close). Joshua Foer
sters now exercising their abilities
says that his brothers are his best
on the memory circuit.
friends, and they all read drafts of
Ever curious, he seeks out a man
one another's work.
with a severe case of amnesia, who
Before beginning this project,
had no sense of the past or the
Foer thought of himself as some-
future other than his most recent
one of average memory at best,
thought. While he has a charm-
who regularly forgot where he put
ing personality, he has no sense
his car keys (and sometimes his
of identity, no conception of the
car), Valentine's Day and food left
narrative of his own life. And Foer
in the oven. But even as he began
writes of a man who remembered
to successfully memorize lists of

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