Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa & Alea Rosa, Andrea Occhipinti
Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa & Alea Rosa, by Andrea Occhipinti
by Kim Kent
A year ago
Ribbon, bell, emerald, stamp. “The handle on a drawer, the palm of your mother’s hand, the sound of the river.” Memory is a slippery thing. To move from an emerald to the palm of your mother’s hand requires the mind to make a path from room to room. You must feel for it like a dog “rubbing his snout in the snow and snorting”; one door opens and a boat sinks. The mind of Yoko Ogawa’s unnamed protagonist in The Memory Police, is not a palace. But rather a humble, even solitary room—its mechanisms delicate and complex—“like a cave floating in the sky.” Everything is compact and precise, but nothing belongs to us. Not even her voice, which comes to us second hand, like a fairy-tale incantation for vanished things both near and distant. An elegy for past and future.
Sometimes when I finish a novel, I am amazed by what, or how much, I can’t remember. My memory, often just as soon as I set it down, is an atmosphere full of holes. Perhaps this is why I always read books twice: to note what’s disappeared and to stumble (again) upon the things I can’t easily let go of, the things that haunt me. The novel Memory Police is a litany of disappeared things: memories, people, voices. Ultimately, what I hold to is not physical. Not simply an object, or a plot, but the language itself. The stories, which can’t be lost, that drift inside of us and keep our souls—or whatever name you have for that “wonderful living thing”— afloat.
To drink this wine is to know a whisper of it already. To feel the mind reach back into the past “as though you’re holding light itself.” We’ve had this grape before, but not this particular story. The Alea Rosa from Andrea Occhipinti is 100% Aleatico. It smells like roses floating down a mountain stream and tastes like “clumps of dried grass, blown along by the wind,” with bright, tart berries. Aleatico is a grape native to Italy and, like Occhipinti’s voice, the grape makes its way into almost all of his Lazio-grown wines.
I read recently that sales of speculative fiction are down because we are now living our own speculative present. Either way, this is a wine to drink for the end-times—as close or as far as that may be—to sip while the wild fruit falls from the branches and you vanish, flake by flake, into the soft transparent liquid swirling in your glass. It’s a pink red wine, which, for me, translates to: drink it slightly chilled, but no more than overnight and rarely just out of the fridge. As you sip, I suggest letting the bottle come back to room temperature. It will change, and you’ll be happy to taste it as it does.
Yoko Ogawa is the author of The Diving Pool—whose namesake novella floored me when I first read it last year—The Housekeeper and the Professor, and Hotel Iris. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. She has won every major Japanese literary award, and The Memory Police was a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Ashiya, Japan.
Andrea Occhipinti farms about four hectares of vineyard near Gradoli, an area he fell in love with as a student. He is dedicated to preserving the local varietals, Aleatica and Grechetto, and he produces surprising, experimental wines. The Alea Rosa sees one night on the skins, followed by six months in steel barrels.