The resurrection of Marcus Aurelius - see Bryan's elegant post here - put me in mind of making a connection with Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean, a philosophical novel set in the golden reign of Marcus Aurelius. Then it struck me that, although I have definitely read it, I remember nothing of it except a kind of vague Aurelian afterglow. In fact, an afterglow is about all that is left to me of many - maybe most - of the books I have read, and, as age advances, less and less of what I read is retained in any solider form. The one thing I liked about Nicholson Baker's U And I was his frank admission that, of the Updike he had read, he remembered very little indeed - and wasn't going to look again to refresh his memory (well, that's how I remember it anyway, and I'm certainly not going to check Baker again).
Does it matter how much we remember of books? Does it matter even if no memory at all is available to our conscious mind? I know I must have read large numbers of books that I don't even remember reading - occasionally I find myself reading one, and realise I'm actually rereading... What I like to think is that the better ones (of the books I do at least remember reading) have left some beneficial trace at a level somewhere just below the conscious, retrievable memory - an afterglow, an aura, a faint fragrance... Or maybe I'm deluding myself?