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Past Forgetting : My Memory Lost and Found Hardcover – October 6, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (October 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060194308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060194307
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,825,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An unflinching account of amnesia and the terror of being a writer without memory, this memoir adds a dramatic chapter to Robinson's life story, which she has explored in a previous memoir and fiction (Bed/Time/Story; Perdido). One day in 1992, she woke up in a London hospital, unable to recognize her husband and drawing a blank on the last 10 years or so, because of a seizure. Later, she realized that her childhood "asthma" and several blackouts were attacks of epilepsy. Condensing a long, painful recovery period, Robinson adopts a style that's at times impressionistic but that's unified by fine powers of observation and flashes of humor. What fascinates the reader is which memories she has retained and which she has lost. Her devoted husband is largely a benevolent stranger. Her children from a former marriageAnow adults living in the U.S.Aare photographs and voices to her. She seems to recall her privileged childhood most clearly, offering a loving portrait of her father, the Oscar-winning writer and film executive Dore Schary, who ran MGM Studios for several years. Raised among Hollywood royalty in the '40s and '50s, Robinson occasionally confuses her life with movie plots, though some glitter remains from her friendships with Barbara Streisand, schoolmate "Bobby" Redford and such journalists as John Lahr. The book's primary appeal lies in the author's bravery in confronting her loss, gamely seeing old friends she doesn't remember, forming a writers' group as a kind of surrogate family and reconnecting emotionally with her grandchildren. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A misty memoir of amnesia triggered by a swimming pool accident, and the slow, painful retrieval of memory. The swimming-pool episode was apparently caused by an epileptic seizure, and Robinson was to learn that she had suffered from undiagnosed epilepsy since she was a child. The daughter of writer/movie mogul Dore Schary, she grew up in southern California, where her schoolmates and playmates were the likes of Robert Redford. A career as a relatively successful novelist (Star Country, 1996, etc.) included two husbands and two children before she settled in London with her third spouse, the extaordinarily patient and understanding hero of this work. When Robinson wakes from a brief coma following the accident, she doesnt know him. Although she accepts his and others' word that this man is her husband, its apparently years before she is able to collate the memories of their mutual history. The Hollywood years are most vivid to the starstruck Robinson, and within the first 20 pages, there is mention of Dennis Hopper, Jane Fonda, and Cary Grant, with Barbra Streisand (a good friend), Erica Jong, Betty Friedan, Helen Gurley Brown, and others. Most interesting are descriptions of Robinson's efforts to restore her memory, including reading her husband's detailed journals of their years together and rereading her own books. She also keeps careful notes of day-to-day encounters, because she often cannot recall from one room to the next where she is or why she is there. She continues to write and never loses her ability to cook or her taste for clothes. A new doctor and new medication to control the seizures assist in her recovery. An intriguing but confusing view from inside the author's head that would be considerably improved by observations from the likes of Barbra and Erica about their now-forgetful friend. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was hooked on this book from the opening sentence. As a writer, the thought of losing my memory is terrifying; this chronicle of regaining one's most personal and valuable possession moved me beyond the realm of mere words. And that one apparently simple line -- "I couldn't taste the name" (of a soup) -- fills me with the worst kind of professional envy.
Sure, there's some "self-indulgent stuff" in the book; but who can blame a writer for flexing her skills or a person who has come back from such a staggering blow for indulging herself? On the whole, however, this is a remarkably restrained piece of work. Jill Robinson deserves nothing but praise for "Past Forgetting."
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By syellen@earthlink.net on November 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Jill Robinson is blessed with an elegant, original prose style, and a life story that gives it wing in Past Forgetting. This is an amazingly original autobiography which takes the reader into the heart and brain of its subject as she struggles to recover memory, and in the process reclaims a fascinating life which began in Hollywood as daughter of MGM head Dore Schary, where she deveoped her writer's eye for the telling detail. What for others would have been a catastrophic event: the siezure which caused a brain storm and severe memory loss, is in her hands a deeply intelligent and entertaining tale of life and memory recaptured. It is also a rare love story of a husband's devotion, and of a woman's courage.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Jill Robinson's book starts out in a breezy, chatty style, with lots of name dropping of mostly old or dead Hollywood types from the 40's and 50's. Mid-way through the book, I really started to lose interest. I was expecting a more sophisticated, mature writing style, but her prose is very simple, with a surprising reptitiveness to it. Maybe that's because the story is about her memory loss, and the author forgets she uses similar descriptions over and over again. It's a very self-indulgent book, with sporadic attempts at academic credibility, as when she talks to doctors and scientists associated with memory studies. The whole thing felt disorganized and over-long. I think it would have worked better as a long magazine piece.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I DID like the idea. How terrifying to lose your memory and how amazing to go through the process of getting it back! But it was very bizarre, and rather irritating, that what Ms. Robinson remembered best were the bygone days in Hollywood of her famous family and friends. The intriguing topics of not remembering what her relationships with her kids were like, forgetting that family members had passed away, etc. were just barely touched upon. I don't like to read Hollywood tales, and those are what seem most important in this memoir. I waffled over 2 stars or 3 stars for my rating... I decided on 3 only because I liked and admired her loyal husband so much.
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