Literary Criticism and Significance
Anthony Doerr is an award-winning author whose short stories have been published in numerous anthologies and critical collections. Memory Wall was the recipient of multiple accolades, including the 2010 Story Award. Of most praise was Doerr’s writing style, which critics hailed as having “beautiful phrases and apt metaphors,” “wondrous descriptions...and vivid imagery.” In addition, critics found his style to be “lyrical” and that it seems to “undulate, to surge and recede like the tides.” The writing is gently hypnotic but always intensely descriptive; it reads like a dream that pulls the readers right into its heart. This style, described as being like an ancient “bedtime story,” is consistent through all of his tales. His stories are so descriptive that they seem for moments on the edge of poetry, which gives his writing a depth and quality that is rich and intriguing.
The stories are all slow moving and ponderous; readers looking for action-packed suspense and television-like drama will be disappointed. Rather, his stories have been described as “unconventional” and filled with “fine writing” that requires time to appreciate and process. Readers looking for a reflective and meditative commentary on the human heart, on the intricacies of everyday living, and on the philosophies behind what truly lasts in our lives will not be disappointed. His message is clear and explained over and over in different ways throughout his stories—life changes, people die, the world goes to war, and the only thing that keeps us whole and keeps us apart from the change and crumbling is the power of our own memories. This message, said by some critics to have been overly explicit in his stories, helps the reader to pick up the meaning without confusion or befuddlement. One other potential criticism was that he “doesn’t always connect with his characters,” which gives the stories a feel of aloofness rather than intimacy with the people he creates.
Whether taken together or separately, each of the six short stories in Doerr’s collection can stand alone or weave together in theme. They span space, time, subject matter, and genre, ranging from science fiction to documentary to philosophical commentary. A wide variety of interests and readers will be satisfied with at least one story within the novel; as such, Memory Wall is a valuable contribution to the world of literature.
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