Friday, October 9, 2009

Books, Music & Nostalgia

Just a reminder, we're giving away Patti's latest release, Seeing Things, this month. Leave a comment for a chance to win this delightful novel.
I'm writing this post on Thursday afternoon on what would have been my son's 37th birthday. His dad and I, our two daughters, and four of our grandchildren -- including our son's only daughter -- spent time together at the cemetery earlier in the day. As my husband Rick said more than once, it's not supposed to be this way. An 11-year-old girl is not supposed to lose her father, a son is not supposed to die before his parents. But it happens.
I'm sure you'd agree, there's nothing like a visit to a loved one's grave site to induce a sense of nostalgia, and nothing like music to intensify it. And I've been extremely nostalgic of late. I've had Feliciano!, a favorite CD, in my car for several weeks, and listen to it over and over. I first purchased the album as a 16-year-old Feliciano fan in '68, then purchased the CD a few months ago when a favorite song from the album surfaced in my head and wouldn't stop playing. That song, The Last Thing on My Mind, was on repeat in my car all day. The words that touch me so deeply these days are from the chorus: "Are you going away, with no word of farewell ... please don't go, please don't go." (You can follow the link to the song if you'd like to listen, but you have to advance the play list till you see that title.)
I realize this is an off-topic subject for our blog, but it leads me to the question I want to ask. I think everyone agrees, there's nothing like music to take you back. A song, or even just a brief refrain, can transport you to another time and stir up memories that make you feel you're there again, wherever "there" happens to be. You're swimming in emotion, pleasant or not, as if reliving the moment -- the deja vu factor, only you know for a fact you really have experienced the moment before.
While music takes the prize hands down for being able to conjur that nostalgic feeling, books can too in their own way. I know without even asking, The Yearling does this for my husband like no other book. It was a wonderful source of escape for him during a difficult time of his boyhood. So years ago, when he told me how much he loved it, I couldn't wait to read it. But it didn't have even close to the same impact on me. I just didn't connect to the story the way he did.
Maybe that's why you can recommend a book that has touched you deeply, much like my song, only to be disappointed that it doesn't touch the person you recomend it to the same way. We're so certain that if something strikes a chord in us, it will strike a chord in everyone else. Right? But if the connection isn't there, or if it doesn't stir up that sense of nostalgia, it's not going to have the same impact. It may be just another good story, and no more.
So, what favorite book stirs up that sense of nostalgia in you, and why? Can a recently published novel accomplish that, or must it be something you read back in the day for it to take you back to the day?


Latayne C Scott said...

Wonderful, wonderful post, Sharon. Thank you for your transparency and vulnerability. What you wrote here is going to be one of those memorable writings for me.

We love you.

Patti Hill said...

Oh my. You're an amazing woman, Sharon. Thanks for sharing your beautiful heart for your son and family.

A book of essays by Annie Dillard, An American Childhood, has burned its way into my memories. I read the book at the end of a semester of agonizingly depressing female writers in a women's fiction class. I was beginning to believe that true greatness in literature must be born out of mental illness. Alas, the literary canon is full of tortured souls. Misery DOES love company.

Along comes Dillard. Her essays were a sort of homecoming for me. We shared so many mundane yet highly reassuring experiences. She was normal, unremarkable, brilliant. We had two out of three characteristics in common. I knew then that I could be a writer without putting stones in my pockets and jumping into the water a la Virginia Woolf.

And there is a song too, "If You Want Me Too" by Ginny Owens. I spent two years in full-body, excruciating pain. This song helped me come to a place of surrender to God's will with lines like: "Just because you love me the way that you do, I'm going to walk through the valley if you want me to."

Sharon, you write fiction that stays with me like the most beautiful sonnet or lyrical song. Thanks for sharing.

Nikole Hahn said...

What an amazing blog! You are so right about a song causing you to revisit a moment or two in your life. Beverly Lewis's book (postcard or crossroads) talked about generational sin. It really spoke to me and I could not get enough information nor could I get enough of her books!

Joanne@ Blessed... said...

Hi Sharon,

I stopped by to say thank you again for your words of encouragement at our Inspire Christian Writers group last week. (I was the gal who brought the tough-as-nails pumpkin bread.)

Your blog post stopped me cold today. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. As a mother myself, I can't understand why a child would die before a parent either. One of those questions there is no satisfying answer least not good enough to appease this tender mom-heart.

You're exactly right, it's not how it's supposed to be. Thank you for the reminder to take an extra moment and hold each one of my chickadees close tonight. I was seriously thinking of vegging on the couch to continue your "Lying on Sunday" novel, which I'm enjoying quite a bit by the way, and which is to blame for my kitchen floor not getting mopped this afternoon.

Instead, I will be going to the video store this afternoon and renting a movie my sons and I can watch together, cuddled under the covers of my bed this evening. (Dad is taking my youngest dtr out on a date tonight).

Thank you again Sharon.

p.s. I will let you know when I finish the book so I can interview you on my blog. Probably by the end of this month. :O)

Bonnie Way aka the Koala Mom said...

One day, while I was listening to one of my mom's CDs, I had the strongest memory of a Stephen Bly series I used to read. Must've been reading it while Mom was playing the music! Music, books, writing - all are creative and connected. Good music and good books often inspire me to write. And nostalgia does too. :)

Kathleen Popa said...

Sharon, I've been humming The Last Thing On My Mind all day today. It was a favorite of mine in high school (only I thought it was Neil Diamond's song), but I hadn't thought of it in years. Now, remembering the terrible day you lost your son, it means even more.

Yes, my friend, you are an amazing, transparently vulnerable woman, and it lends power to everything you write.

Anonymous said...

I thank you all for your comments, and for the books and songs you suggested.

Joanne, your pumpkin bread was a hit with me! Thank you for bringing it, and for being there.

One thing I can say for certain is that all of us here write from our hearts. That's why I think you're all so amazing.

Nicole said...

Words don't always catch the sorrow and sympathy we desperately try to infuse into them. I'm so sorry about your son. Breaks my heart.

Haven't thought of Feliciano in years! So I was humming some of his music throughout the day as a result. Talented, meaningful music.

Powerful thing music. Nostalgia for those years--late 60s, early 70s conjures up both good and bad memories. The influence of the lyrics to that music led me down a path I never should've traveled. Jesus rescued me finally.

Novels don't necessarily make me nostalgic, although when I remember reading Siddhartha, Kafka, and D. H. Lawrence, I get those same uneasy feelings about that time of my life.

However, as it turns out my second novel actually included the lyrics to a well known chorus at the end because the story and the title/theme of that chorus felt simultaneous. And a current novel I've started actually originated from the lyrics of an old Marshall Tucker Band tune.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

You're so strong, Sharon. You may not realize it. I'm thinking and praying for you and your family. Birthdays can be so hard.

I agree with you - songs can transport you to many places. The less-friendly ones are from high school days. I even gave my protagonist in Raising Rain a song that took her to a place she didn't want to be. The best ones are Christmas songs that take me back to my childhood. And, hey, it's coming soon!

C&M said...

Great post, Mom, and it's so true. For me, it's more music than the written word that tends to stir up memories and prompt trips down memory lane.

For you, it's the "oldies" (ha!), but for me, it's 80's music - and mostly it reminds me of Brian.

I can be walking through the grocery store or listening to the 80s channel on the radio and a song will come on and it'll hit me like a ton of bricks. I miss him. But then one will come on that'll make me laugh and think of something funny he used to do or say. And I always share that with the kids (his) whem I'm with them. I know Sis does too. We want him to be as alive in our hearts now as he ever was.

The song they played at his high school graduation was "Forever Young" - and I suppose he will be to all of us, forever.

Love you.

Anonymous said...

Mindy, thank you for your beautiful comment. I know what you mean about songs reminding you of Brian. There are certain songs from the 60s that remind me of your Uncle John. He too will be forever young -- which is a touching thought.

Love you back.