BOOKS: THE PAST THROUGH A FILTER

TWO MEMOIRS SHOW HOW PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS CANNOT REVEAL THE FULL AND TRUE STORY OF A LIFE

Memory is the measure of what one treasures from the past. As such, it is bound to be selective, a filter against life's banalities. But how true is memory to the life one really led? How does it coincide with the picture found in the dispassionate data compiled by others--personnel files, Social Security records, even the watchful accounts of policing agencies like the fbi or the notorious Stasi in the former East Germany?

In quite different ways, memory is the focus of two distinctive new reminiscences. Burning the Days (Random House; 365 pages; $24), subtitled Recollection, is by James Salter, a...

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