The Malleable Memory

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What if you discovered that some of your richest childhood memories were actually fabrications?

According to Oliver Sacks, research suggests that some of our most vivid memories may not have happened–or at least didn’t happen the way we remember. Sacks states:

It is startling to realize that some of our most cherished memories may never have happened—or may have happened to someone else. I suspect that many of my enthusiasms and impulses, which seem entirely my own, have arisen from others’ suggestions, which have powerfully influenced me, consciously or unconsciously, and then been forgotten. 

Sacks’ essay “Speak, Memory” is a meditation on consciousness, plagiarism, and how Sacks himself unknowingly appropriated one of his most visceral childhood memories from a letter.

Also, did you know Coleridge could read The Times paper, then reproduce the entire paper, including the advertisements, verbatim? Well, that’s in the essay too.


Pat Johnson is currently working on his master’s in Fiction Writing at San Francisco State University, and is the owner and editor of the satirical news website The New Porker. When Pat’s not reading or writing he’s likely squeezing a lime into a Tecate and headed to the dance floor. He also creates short films, documentaries, and sketch comedies. Pat is completing his first novel, The Virgin and Marilyn Monroe, and writing a book of Creative Non-Fiction short stories. More from this author →