by Beth C.
In The Book of Memory Gaps, Cecelia Ruiz explores the nature of memory and self, inspired by real-life disorders, through fourteen miniature stories. Each one is composed of two two-page spreads. The first story contains a page spread that is blank on the left and includes a portrait (name beneath) on the right side. The second spread has a short bit of text on left and a full page illustration on the opposite side. And just so you know, the stories are truly brief, none are more than five sentences. However, even in brevity, you can tell Ruiz chose each word with deliberate care for maximum emotional impact.
One of my favorite vignettes is “Valentin does not remember how certain objects look, thus he often mistakes on thing for another. Lately, he has been carrying around all kinds of bouquets. It appears the little boy is in love.” The opposite page shows an illustration of snowy scene. It is nighttime, the streetlamp is illuminated. Valentin, with an alert and happy face, is holding a bouquet of utensils.
I’m not really hip to artistic lingo, but the art styling for the stories is spot on. (I mean of course it is. Cecilia Ruiz is an artist, she knows what she’s doing.) I love how the illustrations have a vintage look about them; they are faded and slightly hazy, just like an old photograph. Ruiz uses a limited color palette that is soft and muted. All of this combines to create a clever representation of how our memories fade and dim over time. Our identities, our selves, are made up of both what we can and can’t remember.
The Book of Memory Gaps can be read fairly quickly, but I find that the words and images linger long in memory after I’ve turned the last page. I find myself wondering about the lives of the people depicted inside. What are their day-to-day lives like beyond the mere glance I was given? What will they buy at the grocery store? Will they call anyone up on the telephone later?
All in all, Ruiz’s The Book of Memory Gaps is hauntingly beautiful and depressingly charming.
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