Fictional Nostalgia

Interesting article (something this long and elaborate just seems to resist the adage of “post”) at the New Yorker on Salinger and Catcher in the Rye. I’ve never liked the book all that much, although it was certainly an interesting read. But I can certainly appreciate the sentiment below.

Life and Letters: Holden At Fifty : The New Yorker

Maybe, in fact, the nostalgia of youth culture is completely spurious. Maybe it invites you to indulge in bittersweet memories of a childhood you never had, an idyll of Beach Boys songs and cheeseburgers and convertibles and teen-age crushes which has been constructed by pop songs and television shows and movies, and bears very little relation to any experience of your own. But, whether or not the emotion is spurious, people have it. It is the romantic certainty, which all these books seduce you with, that somehow, somewhere, something was taken away from you, and you cannot get it back. Once, you did ride a carrousel. It seemed as though it would last forever.

The most interesting thing is that it’s not even a “maybe” for me. All those bittersweet memories that the pop songs and teen movies conjure up are completely spurious in my case, and I know they are, but that doesn’t change how easily they affects me. Yes, on the one hand it’s an interesting side effect of the globalization Americanization of culture. But purely as a psychological phenomenon, it’s still interesting. I noticed this most recently after realizing how much I liked Bowling for Soup‘s songs, and not just because the tunes are so catchy. They’re hardly universal love songs. They mostly sing about a very obvious and stereotyped American high school culture, which was really nothing like my own. Oh, we had the usual relationship issues and some rough division into nerds and jocks (no cheerleaders, though) and a range of people in between, but it was a far, far smaller school and everyone talked to everyone else; most people even talked to me. But I still empathize with all the angst and the longing and the high-tempo drama . And I don’t even feel bad about it.

PS:It has to be said, though, that like Holden, Bowling for Soup is hardly nostalgic for the high school years. One of their songs is bitterly titled: “High School Never Ends”.

PPS: Whoa. I just looked them up. I had no idea they were so old.

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One thought on “Fictional Nostalgia

  1. Nice one! If I could write like this I would be well chuffed. The more I read articles of such quality as this (which is rare), the more I think there might be a future for the Web. Keep it up, as it were.

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