The Cleaners

the cleanersThe fourth book in the Faraway collection is Ken Liu’s The Cleaners. This short story is less than an hour long, and I highly recommend it. Here are the details.I

Gui is a professional cleaner. People bring objects to him for him to scrub. Only, instead of scrubbing them physically clean, Gui scrubs away the painful memories attached to the objects. Gui is memory-blind and can’t feel the memories that he spends his days scrubbing away.

Clara can feel the memories, and she doesn’t want them. That’s why she’s hired Gui after a bad breakup. Her sister Beatrice, who is oversensitive to memories, reminds Clara of a mutual memory they share. Clara’s time with Beatrice has her questioning whether or not she should erase memories–even when they’re painful.

I noticed . . .

Memories in this world seem to need to be transmitted through physical touch. If the object hasn’t received a memory, things seem to be forgotten.

Liu’s negative message about American greed and consumerism. One really poignant scene in the book tells of how American memory cleaners come in and clean child-made electronics of sad memories so that the sadness does not transmit to the American public.

I wondered . . .

The main thing I wondered was how strong a feeling the feeling would need to be to store a memory in an object.

It reminded me of . . .

The desire to ride oneself of bad memories reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The bad memories in that movie are also caused by a breakup.

There were two books I’ve read in past two or three years explore the concept of memories inside of objects.

The first, Keeper of the Lost Things, finds lost objects and attempts to match them back with the original owner. The “keeper” figures out the original owner, in part, due to the memories that he can feel in the objects.

The second book, 59 Memory Lane, has May, who needs to feed off of memories to stay young and healthy. She gets those memories off of objects, and when she has fed, the object loses its meaning and attachment for its owner. Sometimes the owner even loses the memory itself.

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