Have you ever tried to tell someone about your day? Or tried to catch someone up on a TV show they missed? By nature, details get left out. We cannot recreate experiences, or even describe them at the same level of detail by which we experience them.
Imagine telling someone about buying a cup of coffee– I went into the Top Pot in Wedgwood. If you’ve never been to Top Pot, their logo is a little biplane flying upward. The building isn’t too big, a one story street front with big glass windows and a red awning. Around the bottom of the windows is a brown stripe with donut names in white script. Let me guess. I haven’t even walked into the building to place my order and you’re already bored. So usually, that story gets cuts down to “I got an iced coffee this afternoon.” The rest of the experience is deemed untransferable or unnecessary.
The same thing happens with all sorts of information. Small run poetry books, cheap thriller novels, advertisements, all get lost because there’s no one there to save them. And for sure, not everything is worth saving. I’m hard pressed to imagine that anyone will ever need all the extra telephone books that get printed every year. Now or in the future. But it’s a political business, the business of what gets saved.
In Asian American literature, there’s a very, very important book called “No No Boy” by John Okada. When he first published it, no one cared. By the time the Asian American Movement had sprung up and found his book, John Okada has passed on and his wife had burned his second manuscript. Some things that should have been saved are lost.
Even in this digital age, things are lost (things that can always be found are another topic). I want to ask how to save what’s important, but “important” is such a subjective word.