A Thing for Nostalgia

Why did you call your book “Those Days,” I once asked writer Richard Critchfield, known for his narrative description of village life and disappearing times. He shrugged and said that “in those days” was the phrase he heard most in his interviews. It was what people wanted to talk about—the past, who they were, where they were from, and how that time and place was the standard by which all else would be measured.

Many of us feel a connection with past times and even hold a bittersweet longing for what’s gone by. Wander through an antique store and whammo there it is, the thing that speaks to who you once were and where you came from. Milk bottles. A certain fur stole. White leather gloves over the elbow. Oh look, honey. The juice glasses we grew up with, the ones that came from the gas station, or from S&H green stamps, or the washed-out jelly jars.

So what are we writers to take from this near-gravitational pull that some feel toward the yesteryear? How could we use this element to best advantage?

First, we have to make sure that the stuff of the story—the objects, style, mood and mannerisms, turns of phrase and other detail—fits the time period.

Next, we have to make sure that these charming things, carefully researched and lovingly written, serve as setting and are not substituted in all their beautiful glory for the tale. It’s a question of resisting seduction—the poodle skirts, the silver cocktail shakers—and keeping your eye on the story.

Comments welcome and edited to include first names only, and website, if provided; never your email. Photo by A Slice of Life.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Sounds like the Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris… A nostalgia shop and a gaggle of famous writers.

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  2. Or Mad Men, all that mood and very thin story. But no matter what it is, when “the stuff” resonates, we linger.

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