no nostalgia, apparently

A couple of posts ago, I quoted this from Jean Shepherd:

Nostalgia is based on the idea that things were ever better than they are now. They weren’t. Things have always been lousy.

I’ve been thinking about this in relation to places, too. I’m writing this in a cab, moving some final things out of the old family homestead, which is being sold. The old place is pretty much empty now, and I keep wondering if I’m going to get nostalgic at all.

So far, no.

And it occurs to me that nostalgia is pretty much absent from my writing, too. Of all the characters in my stories, I can only think of one who is now living where she grew up. And none of the rest of them seem to miss the places they came from.

As Vicki is fond of saying, “There’s no place like home. Thank God.”

Not that nobody has regrets, about how they left or what they left behind, but regrets are not nostalgia.

That scene on Mount Doom, where Frodo and Sam talk about their memories of the Shire? There’s nothing like that in my stories.

This was not a conscious plan (I guess that goes without saying – nothing else is a conscious plan, so why would this be? 🙂 ), but it is interesting how much we reveal about ourselves in our writing, not only by what we put in but also by what we leave out.

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2 Responses to no nostalgia, apparently

  1. Alexis says:

    One of my writing professors once said that fiction writing is, among other arts, the way to most thoroughly expose oneself to the world.

    I am living only two townships over from where I grew up, and it’s not nostalgic at all, despite the fact that I lived far away from here for a good decade or so, and then returned. I am actually kind of pained by it. Everything is so familiar, and I guess it bores me. Being away from home always felt liberating, and being near feels grounding, in a restrictive sense. Logically, that doesn’t really make sense, since we live here because of work opportunities we can’t find elsewhere… but still.

    Maybe this aspect of myself is reflected in my opinions not just as a writer, but as a reader, because to me, sometimes an overwhelming sense of nostalgia feels repetitive in fiction. I think the key is that element of “epic.” Frodo and Sam embark on an undoubtedly epic adventure so some nostalgia would make sense. Often I’ve noticed, however, that a story is just not epic enough to warrant that kind of thing, either because of its brevity or because of its subject matter.

    • I knew somebody once who was setting out to write a novel, and she insisted that nothing in it was autobiographical — it was all pure fiction. I didn’t say anything. Later, she started to see all the autobiographical elements, and she dropped the whole project.

      I think your “epic” point is very true (certainly nothing I’ve ever written has been epic), but it’s also true that love of land was big with Tolkien. The Hobbits long for the Shire, Boromir remembers Gondor, the people of Rohan are tied to their land, and Gimli obviously feels at home when they get to the mines of Maria (and Strider is a wanderer because he’s cut off from his homeland). This is one thing which differentiates the mortal races from the elves in Tolkien’s writing.

      Peter Jackson didn’t get this (much as I like the movies in other ways), and it seems he mostly regarded the Shire as “That nice place with the goofy people, where we have to be until the exciting stuff starts”). This is why he thought “The Scouring of the Shire” was disposable.

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