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Memory Theater: A Novel
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Other Press 2015
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Description

From this renowned philosopher comes a debut work of fiction, at once a brilliant précis of the history of philosophy, a semiautobiographical meditation on the absurd relationship between knowledge and memory, and a very funny story

A French philosopher dies during a savage summer heat wave. Boxes carrying his unpublished papers mysteriously appear in Simon Critchley’s office. Rooting through them, Critchley discovers a brilliant text on the ancient art of memory and a cache of astrological charts predicting the deaths of various philosophers. Among them is a chart for Critchley himself, laying out in great detail the course of his life and eventual demise. While waiting for his friend’s prediction to come through, Critchley receives the missing, final box, which contains a maquette of Giulio Camillo’s sixteenth-century Venetian memory theater, a space supposed to contain the sum of all knowledge. With nothing left to hope for, Critchley devotes himself to one final project before his death—the building of a structure to house his collective memories and document the remnants of his entire life.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
11/17/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781590517413
ASIN:
B00TNBOGJ8

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APA Citation (style guide)

Simon Critchley. (2015). Memory Theater: A Novel. Other Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Simon Critchley. 2015. Memory Theater: A Novel. Other Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Simon Critchley, Memory Theater: A Novel. Other Press, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Simon Critchley. Memory Theater: A Novel. Other Press, 2015.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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Date Updated:
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      • bioText: Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York. His previous books include On Humour; The Book of Dead Philosophers; How to Stop Living and Start Worrying; Impossible Objects; The Mattering of Matter (with Tom McCarthy); The Faith of the Faithless; Stay, Illusion! (with Jamieson Webster), and Bowie. He is series moderator of “The Stone,” a philosophy column in the New York Times, to which he is a frequent contributor.
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title
Memory Theater
fullDescription
From this renowned philosopher comes a debut work of fiction, at once a brilliant précis of the history of philosophy, a semiautobiographical meditation on the absurd relationship between knowledge and memory, and a very funny story

A French philosopher dies during a savage summer heat wave. Boxes carrying his unpublished papers mysteriously appear in Simon Critchley’s office. Rooting through them, Critchley discovers a brilliant text on the ancient art of memory and a cache of astrological charts predicting the deaths of various philosophers. Among them is a chart for Critchley himself, laying out in great detail the course of his life and eventual demise. While waiting for his friend’s prediction to come through, Critchley receives the missing, final box, which contains a maquette of Giulio Camillo’s sixteenth-century Venetian memory theater, a space supposed to contain the sum of all knowledge. With nothing left to hope for, Critchley devotes himself to one final project before his death—the building of a structure to house his collective memories and document the remnants of his entire life.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: The Wall Street Journal
      • content: "Critchley's writing is uncommonly vital. He has a keen appreciation of literature and pop culture, and his analysis can skip nimbly from Heidegger to Wallace Stevens to Johnny Rotten...Charming...a brilliant parable."
      • premium: False
      • source: Colin Dwyer, NPR
      • content: "A winding dive into the nature of memory--the powers we ascribe to it, and the devices we use to bulwark it . . . fascinating . . . well worth the afternoon it'll take to read--and the lingering questions it'll leave with you long afterward."
      • premium: False
      • source: Slate
      • content: "Tacks from abstract meditations on memory and thought to surreal, hilarious anecdotes involving Critchley's bizarre life. Sample confession: 'I couldn't think of anything apart from death and the vague prospect of breakfast cereal.'"
      • premium: False
      • source: Flavorwire
      • content: "Cleverly and admirably lays bare the fact that our memories are being gentrified."
      • premium: False
      • source: David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas
      • content: "Memory Theater is a brilliant one-of-a-kind mind game occupying a strange frontier between philosophy, memoir, and fiction. Simon Critchley beguiles as he illuminates."
      • premium: False
      • source: Tom McCarthy, author of C
      • content: "Novella or essay, science fiction or memoir? Who cares. Chris Marker, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Frances Yates would all have been proud to have written Memory Theater."
      • premium: False
      • source: Los Angeles Review of Books
      • content: "Remarkable...suffused with an enthusiasm for its subject, and a humor that carries the text lightly along as Critchley's frantic prose descends toward its conclusion."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Guardian
      • content: "[Critchley's] fiction debut is rich, profound, and very funny."
      • premium: False
      • source: Times Literary Supplement
      • content: "Teasing, economical, ingenious"
      • premium: False
      • source: Hari Kunzru, author of Gods Without Men
      • content: "A strange, affecting and stimulating book that's both a philosophical history and a personal memoir. Sifting through the archives of a dead friend, Critchley takes a fascinating journey through the philosophy and history of memory, and the technologies of remembering dreamed up by thinkers since classical times."
      • premium: False
      • source: Marina Warner, author of Stranger Magic
      • content: "With a sense of mischief combined with surprising reverie, Simon Critchley has braided together ideas about memory from the past with the latest thinking about unreliable narrative, altered states and the mysteries of consciousness. Memory Theater is a tantalizing, textual Moebius strip–philosophy, autobiography, and fiction twisted together."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from July 6, 2015
        From philosopher Critchley (The Book of Dead Philosophers) comes this debut novel, a not-quite-nonfiction story that fuses its author’s long-standing engagement with critical theory and a narrative inquiry into mortality and remembrance that is original, observant, and unexpectedly moving. In 2004, aging professor Simon Critchley discovers a stack of boxes belonging to his deceased friend and mentor, Michel Haar. Organized according to the signs of the zodiac, the boxes contain unpublished papers on Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Thomas Carlyle; Haar’s primary interest seems to have been in the Renaissance concept of the memory theater. Haar’s commentaries have particular relevance for Critchley, whose own memory was seemingly damaged in an accident years earlier; increasingly beguiled by the eerily accurate horoscopes that Haar left behind, Critchley resolves to build his own full-scale memory theater, populated with manifestations of his life and learning, to be completed at the hour of his death—which has been foretold by Haar in his papers. As anyone familiar with the works of Critchley (or his frequent collaborator Tom McCarthy) might expect, this speculative narrative is peppered with copious references like Medieval heresy, the avant-garde, and Mark E. Smith of the English punk group the Fall. These essayistic reveries hang together so beautifully with the unfolding mystery that the book becomes, in essence, a theater of its own. The novel is short enough to be absorbed in a single sitting, but the questions posed by author/character Simon regarding the full ramifications of the soul’s saturation in history will linger indefinitely.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        September 15, 2015
        An academic receives a series of documents from a deceased colleague, leading him down an obsessive path.Critchley's surreal and intellectual novel begins with a kind of memento mori: "I was dying. That much was certain. The rest is fiction." That neatly establishes the mood of what's to come: a meditation on philosophy and mortality that begins carefully and meticulously and slowly heads into progressively more irrational strata. And yet it's also a playful nod to the more metafictional aspects of the book: the narrator here appears to be a version of Critchley, but the story being told can best be described as a novel, unlike the rest of its author's work. The novel begins when Critchley receives a selection of documents compiled by his late colleague Michel Haar; in a glossary at the back of the book, Critchley notes that "much of what is said about him above is true. Some of it isn't." And so it goes: real philosophers interweaving, with brief observations on aging, culture, and Critchley's fondness for the long-running post-punk band The Fall. Into this precise literary structure comes a series of precise intellectual structures: first, a series of memory maps, which take on precognitive abilities: "Their purpose was to plot the major events in a philosopher's life and then to use those events to explain his demise." And from there comes the structure that gives the book its title: a memory theater, a concept with which the narrator becomes progressively more obsessed. What begins as an eminently rational work slowly takes on a haunting illogic, a kind of intellectual horror creeping in. This strange, mesmerizing novel is hard to shake, evoking lucidity, mortality, and weirdness in equally memorable measures.

        COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

popularity
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From this renowned philosopher comes a debut work of fiction, at once a brilliant précis of the history of philosophy, a semiautobiographical meditation on the absurd relationship between knowledge and memory, and a very funny story

A French philosopher dies during a savage summer heat wave. Boxes carrying his unpublished papers mysteriously appear in Simon Critchley’s office. Rooting through them, Critchley discovers a brilliant text on the ancient art of memory and a cache of astrological charts predicting the deaths of various philosophers. Among them is a chart for Critchley himself, laying out in great detail the course of his life and eventual demise. While waiting for his friend’s prediction to come through, Critchley receives the missing, final box, which contains a maquette of Giulio Camillo’s sixteenth-century Venetian memory theater, a space supposed to contain the sum of all knowledge. With nothing left to hope...
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