The Art and Science of Forgetting Everything

Rosecrans Baldwin in The Morning News:

Hepola-feature_1260_1260_80Sarah Hepola is the personal essays editor at Salon and a contributor to The Morning News since 2002, one of our very first writers. She’s also a close friend, in part because her pieces have always been exactly what we want to publish at TMN: investigative essays that are personal, funny, and very smart. Her new book, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget is an addiction memoir, and it’s also all of those things, but much more. As the Times critic Dwight Garner wrote recently, with a little more flamboyance than we expect in his reviews, “Simply extraordinary…. Ms. Hepola’s electric prose marks her as a flamingo among this genre’s geese.” Blackout tells the story of the author’s problems with “the gasoline of all adventure,” as she puts it, from a very specific and misunderstood angle: the phenomenon of blackouts, or those moments when a drinker’s long-term memory shuts down while drinking. In Hepola’s experience, blacking out was part of some of her worst moments as an alcoholic, and the book finds her investigating what the phenomenon is exactly, and what really happened when her memory turned off. After we read the book, we were surprised to realize how little we knew about blacking out, too, so we reached out to Sarah to find out more.

Blacking out isn’t the same as passing out, not the same as “browning out,” as they say in It’s Always Sunny. What is it?

A blackout is when you drink so much that your long-term memory shuts down. You can still talk and make jokes and flirt with random guys, but the recorder in the brain isn’t working, so, afterward, you won’t remember a thing. It’s an alcohol-imposed amnesia. Not everyone will have blackouts, which makes it confusing for those who don’t, and for those of us who do, it’s unforgettable. You wake up, and pieces of your night are missing.

More here.