Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Raid and the Case of the Mysterious Missing Book

I love bookstores. Academic bookstores, especially just before the beginning of the semester, are among my favorites. I love looking at what books other people are teaching; it's like you get a little idea of what might be good to read. Maybe that works better for folks in English and literature stuffs than for folks in chemistry, though. It's especially good if I know that I've liked the books Sally suggested before, and I see something promising on the shelves for Sally's upper level lit class, especially if Sally teaches an area of lit I'm not really familiar with.

I raided the bookstore and got a new Language D/English dictionary, a Language D beginner textbook, and Language D beginner workbook, and yes, another book.

(No, I'm not really worried that real students will be unable to get hold of any of the books I raid. Talking to bookstore folks, I've learned that predicting how many books will be purchased for a given class within the first couple weeks of the semester is a really difficult thing. Students go on-line to get books more cheaply, borrow or resell within dorms and frats, put off buying because they don't have the money, and so forth.)


Meanwhile, back at the ranch. At some point last semester, I noticed that one of the texts I'll be using for a class this semester was in one of my bookcases at home; I distinctly remember thinking that I'd need to take it in to the office, but not doing so at the time for some reason. Last week, I started looking for the book so I could use it to make up the class calendar, but I couldn't find it. I have a pretty visual memory, so I tend to remember what part of a page a given phrase I care about is on, and totally forget what the actual phrase is. So I remembered distinctly that the book is pink; I could even picture the kind of sans serif font the book title is in, and that it's white on the spine. But I couldn't find the book. I looked in the usual places, starting with the theory and crit books (this one's a book on rhetoric), then looked in the "need to read these" shelf. No luck, so I searched the novels bookcase, and the plays and early modern texts. It was all very frustrating.

I decided I might need to buy another copy, so I checked and found out that there's a new edition. But, of course, I can't buy the new edition of the rental text I've ordered is the older edition, or I'll be out of step and worse with the class. So while I was raiding at the bookstore, I planned to pick up a copy of the mysterious missing book.

There were, as I expected, stacks of this book. But they're light blue, not pink. So I held off buying a copy, went home, and found the blue book within about half a minute of looking. I'd been so convinced I was looking for a pink book that I hadn't seen the blue one. Yep.

Why would my mind misremember light blue as pink? I find the ways I misremember things really interesting, not quite in an Oliver Sacks sort of way, but in that weird way it reveals the connections I make and such (so in a mini-thankfully-not-as-interesting-as Oliver Sacks' cases way).


  1. Our amazing brains seem to "lump" items together in categories in an effort to keep our memories filed in some type of system. (Think of the ease in remembering 3 or 4 digits together, rather than individually.) Perhaps you lumped the memory of the book color into the category "pastel baby color", not "blue", which could be why "pink" kept coming up. Just a thought...

  2. Hey, that makes sense! Thanks!