Life Stories #61: David Stuart MacLean

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Life Stories: David Stuart MacLean
photo: Heather Edison

In this episode of Life Stories, the podcast where I talk to memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, David Stuart MacLean and I discuss The Answer to the Riddle Is Me, a “memoir of amnesia” that begins with a cold open as MacLean snaps into consciousness with no idea where he is… or even who he is. His condition turns out to have been a particularly strong adverse reaction to the anti-malarial drug Lariam, but having an explanation didn’t make the task of rebuilding his identity any easier. One of the things we discussed is how, though he has a rough sense of life before his amnesia, some memories are lost forever—but then, as he’s discovered, even those of us who haven’t suffered amnesia can forget many of the details of our own lives:

“It’s one of those things that almost becomes an existential question: How do I know what I don’t know? So people will say, do you have all your memory back? And I’m like, I have no idea. I have a pretty good sense of who I am now. I still have people who I bump into who I can’t place who are from before that time, but I’m not sure if that would be normal anyway. I’ve spent time in my home town talking to people for an hour, and not know who they are. I’m not sure if that would be true usually.”

Listen to Life Stories #61: David Stuart MacLean (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

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5 February 2014 | life stories |