Twenty plus years ago I read The Brothers Karamazov with a book club I’d formed when I’d stopped teaching to stay home with my newborn son. I was desperate for some literary interaction, and this group provided just what I needed. One of the books we read that first year was The Brothers Karamazov. It was a hefty, challenging read and the first time I ever used CliffsNotes.
Fast forward to my current book club, The Dead Authors Society, that only reads classics (which means an author must be dead to be read. Do we debate if certain books should be considered classics? Oh, yes we do.) Recently we read The Brothers Karamazov. Armed with my copy and my CliffsNotes, I dug in. I remembered very little from my first time through, but I did recall a father’s murder. I remembered the murder because there was a parrot in the book that called out “Patricide!” (“The killing of one’s father ” — which seems pretty ridiculous the more that I think of it…but why not an accusatory parrot? The more Russian novels I’ve read the more astonishing I’ve found some scenarios and characters to be.)
Imagine my surprise when there was no parrot but a servant who called out “Parricide!” (“the killing of a father, mother, or close relative”) when encountering one of the Karamazov brothers. (Is this son the murderer or not? Does he carry some responsibility either way? And does he deserve forgiveness? Much of the book hinges on these ideas.) I had remembered something that wasn’t there. I had crafted a piece of the story that didn’t exist at all!
Memories are faulty in life and in fiction (and evidently in reading fiction, too). I’m curious: Have you also harbored a book memory that turned out to be completely wrong?