Monday, May 5, 2014

Into the Wilderness

The Wilderness, a novel by Samantha Harvey, takes us into the uncertain reality of a man by the name of Jake.  Within the narrative of Jake's life the reader finds themselves unsure of where "reality" begins, and the fragmented world of the man with Alzheimer's ends.
For me, reading this novel was a truly exploratory endeavor. I have never been exposed to the ravages of dementia, never personally witnessed the decline of a loved one into the throes of this disease. This  novel, although fiction, gave me a sense of how the slow erosion of ones memories can pivot reality, not only for the subject, but also the bystanders.
In an INTERVIEW with Samantha Harvey conducted by Book Group, they ask:
"The deterioration of Jake’s memory and, to some extent, his personality, seems totally convincing. How did you research it – or did you rely largely on your imagination?
She spoke about how she did extensive research, not wanting to "get it wrong," but then she had to rely on imagination. Here's an excerpt of Harvey's response:
"In fact I came to find that state of confusion, unease and disorientation surprisingly accessible. I think it’s there in us all, in a less extreme form. I think that what makes Alzheimer’s so frightening and fascinating isn’t that it’s so alien to everyday life, but that it’s so close to it. Everybody ages, everybody forgets things, everybody suffers loss and loses logic at times. Everybody depends on memory to construct themselves as individuals, and yet for all of us the past is hazy, and a lot of what we remember we may have made up. So, the imaginative effort of the writing was less about searching another world and more about looking closer at this one."
She speaks to the innate fear in us all, the thought that we are not too far off from being on the precipice of falling off a cliff ourselves. Are we all moments away from loosing what could possibly make us who we are in this illusion of collective reality?  Or is it the personal construction of our independent reality which forms the bulk of our perception that makes us, us? COULD IT BE A COMBINATION OF THE TWO, THE COLLECTIVE AND THE INDEPENDENT? And if it is, traversing through the landscape of both at any given time could prove even more detrimental to our identity, or the lack there of.

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