Matt’s been in town for the Online News Association conference and at some point we were jointly recommending Philip Roth’s Plot Against America to someone, and I said, ah yes, classic case of a book that left me, primarily, with a single indelible image.
This is completely idiosyncratic, of course. But I don’t really remember what happens in Plot Against America. What I do remember is the vision of President Charles Lindbergh (!) always flying his own plane, a dark Lockheed Interceptor—sometimes just taking an afternoon spin above Washington. I can see it like a photograph, or like it’s happening right now. For whatever reason, that image just clicked into place in my imagination, and it hasn’t budged.
Likewise, the daemons in Philip Pullman’s books. (Okay, Iorek the armored bear, too.) (And the witches.) (Pullman’s good.)
I read and enjoyed Lev Grossman’s new book The Magicians recently, and even now, I can feel the plot fading away—but an image remains. Two figures walking slowly across the dark bulk of Antarctica, wreathed in flame, shining like fallen stars. That’s what I’m going to remember a year from now, or ten.
Sometimes I find the fact of the indelible image a bit depressing. Jeez, I spent all that time reading that book, and that’s all I remember? But really, it’s wonderful—especially from a writer’s point of view. To leave a reader with something so distinct and durable—to tattoo something on their brain? That’s the challenge. That’s the trophy.
But this is all obviously lead-up. What’s your indelible image?