Michael: You have to rely rather heavily on aspects of your memory. It's harder for you to skip around as you read (listening to a tape or your computer's screen reader), so it's more important to remember the essentials of the text as you go. Similarly, misplacing something can turn into much more of an ordeal for you. Do you think your memory has improved as sight has diminished?
Joel: I wouldn't say my memory has literally improved, though I do use it more conscientiously than when I could see well. Many believe when someone loses their sight, memory and other faculties become enhanced. I think this notion is a hopeful idealization of blindness inspired equally by compassion and subconscious fear of going blind, oneself. But sighted actors memorize copious scripts, and they're not all Homers or Miltons. Still, I must admit that I know where nearly everything in my apartment is, and I do indeed recall salient facts and passages from my "reading," often verbatim. But I always have enjoyed vivid, fairly accurate

Joel on his apartment

retention of past events, conversations, sights, and sounds. I use it more now than ever, of necessity, but I doubt there have been dramatic alterations in my brain's neurochemistry or neurocircuitry. Just bursts of frequent, intensive activity in memory areas.
Michael: I know that music and literature are two of your greatest passions. How do you keep track of where CDs and books are, or remember what's inside them, without being able to read titles or thumb through pages? Have you developed any tricks or technologies to help catalogue and remember all that visual information?

Joel on books

Joel: I periodically have friends straighten my bookshelves, just on principle. As Henry Grunwald, former Time executive and US Ambassador, afflicted with macular degeneration, says in his memoir, "Twilight," the books in my living room aren't just furniture now, but they aren't what they used to be, either. Music is something else, though. Whereas I don't often wish to reread a printed book or a passage of one, or at least can stomach not being able to, I really need to know where my CD's are. I don't read Braille, or I might label every CD with Braille Dymo tape. I posed my problem to a couple of blind Internet mailing
lists, and got innovative ideas for everything from shelving strategies to powerful database programs that list title and track information when you insert a music disc in your CD-ROM drive. Not sure what I'll do, yet.