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Grace Linden
Grace Linden is a writer and art historian based in London.

Memories Dressed Up With Wishes

Illustration by Homestead

Grace Linden | Longreads | July 2019 | 8 minutes (2,211 words)

The year is 2017 in Siri Hustvedt’s seventh and most recent novel Memories of the Future, and the premise is seemingly straightforward. The novel opens with its protagonist, S.H., a 61-year-old successful author, thinking back on the year when she moved to New York City over three decades earlier. It begins, like so many other stories and dreams, with the memory of a young woman moving to New York holding fast to the hope that this was the start of her life:

Years ago I left the wide, flat fields of rural Minnesota for the island of Manhattan to find the hero of my first novel. When I arrived in August of 1978, he was not a character so much as a rhythmic possibility, an embryonic creature of my imagination, which I felt as a series of metrical beats that quickened and slowed with my steps as I navigated the streets of the city. I think I was hoping to discover myself in him, to prove that he and I were worthy of whatever story came our way.

The beginning, like many beginnings and like life itself, is extraordinarily ordinary. S.H. recounts how, that summer of 1978, she found a small apartment on 109th Street in the Upper West Side. She remembers outfitting her new home with two place settings in the hopes of conjuring a lover. She smoked and drank a lot of coffee at the Hungarian Bakery and tried to be the type of person who interesting things happened to or, at the very least, who got to witness interesting things happening first-hand. She was lonely but didn’t want to leave, and instead was determined to lose herself in the rhythms of the city she had long loved even before ever really knowing it. Read more…