If you decide to enter the cave, turn to page 42.
If you decide to return to the camp to tell the others, turn to page 67.
As a child growing up in the 1980s, I was a big fan of the Choose Your Own Adventureseries of game books. Each book would begin with an all-capitals WARNING explaining that it was not like an ordinary book, that you should not read it from beginning to end. Instead, you would be asked to choose between two options at the bottom of each page. Once you made your choice, you’d turn to the relevant page and continue the story until you face your next decision.
Much like the Mundaneum, these books represented a sort of proto-internet. The page references you were asked to turn to were like clicking on a link. Hypertext on paper. Wikipedia is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book containing the entirety of human knowledge.
I had dozens of these books, and I’d read them and re-read them endlessly until I felt that I had managed to exhaust all of the different possibilities in each one before moving onto the next. This list of books in the series immediately makes me want to rush to eBay and buy as many as I can get my hands on and read them all over again.
A few years ago, I read a novel that used the game book structure, but was written with adults in mind rather than children. I tried to remember what it was called and who wrote it, but drew a complete blank. Googling the small fragments of detail that I could remember didn’t help either. As I tried to remember more about the book, the main thing that I could associate with it wasn’t any of the plot points, it was more the physical sensation of reading it. I remember reading it on the Central Line commuting to work. More evocatively, I remember listening to Bobby Orlando.
There are songs that have extremely powerful connections with moments of my life. Not dramatic or emotionally significant moments, but just every day occurrences. Sometimes these connections can become confusing. Years ago, I would spend the lunch breaks from my job at Virgin Megastore listening to Altered Images and reading Mickey Spillane books. As a result, as soon as I hear Don’t Talk To Me About Love, I’m thrown into a confusing three-way mix of New York in the 1950s, Glasgow in the 1980s and Wimbledon in 2003.
Unfortunately, this is not much help – I can’t exactly google “Central Line” “Bobby Orlando” and “book” and hope that I’d find anything useful in the results. But perhaps I could use that connection in some other way.
There’s a psychological principle called context-dependent memory, whereby recall of events can be improved by mirroring certain contextual elements that were present when that memory was originally formed. I wondered if listening back to Bobby Orlando would suddenly bring the book back into focus. And so I’ve been doing that for a couple of days.
The book was Life’s Lottery by Kim Newman.
I’d love to say that by listening to the same songs that I listened to when I first read the book, I was able to unlock the doors to a Sherlock-style Memory Palace in which I visualised a bookcase containing everything I have ever read, and instinctively knew exactly where to find the book I was looking for.
In reality, I gave up, worked out roughly what year it would have been and looked back at my Amazon orders from that time instead.