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JEAN SHEPHERD–Not Nostalgia

I NOSTALGIA?

NOT NOSTALGIA ?!?!!!

Shepherd’s sometimes questionable claims to be anti-nostalgia have been pointed out, and certainly the major effect of his stories and commentary is against those feelings for the “good old days.”  Despite the many times he insisted that he was against nostalgia, he was frequently accused of it.  A recently heard Shepherd defense is especially emphatic:

Might as well come right to the face of it, that a—you know a lot of people say, “Shepherd, why do you tell stories about when you were a kid?”  Now they are under the impression that what I am doing is dealing in nostalgia!  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Is a guy lying on the psychiatrist’s couch telling the analyst about some fantastically, spectacularly bad thing that happened to him at the age of eight—is he indulging in nostalgia?  You better believe he ain’t. 

And under no circumstances does Shepherd feel that when he was a kid things were better than they are now.  I just want to get that really clearly stated.  And furthermore, he also wants to state categorically he does not feel that being a child is the best of all possible worlds.  He does not feel that when you were a child things were better than they are now, nor did you feel better than you do now.  In fact, the actual truth is, you probably felt worse [laughs] most of the time. 

So, the only time Shepherd will relate a story about when he was a child is because he is delineating a moment—a moment of traumatic reality—which has created the world of the adult that is now in existence.  Was that good or bad?  Neither!  It’s a fact.

All this is true–I believe it–but on occasion, something that can only be described as nostalgia, does creep into Shep’s work. To paraphrase Shakespeare, sometimes the Shepherd doth protest too much.

i love nostalgia

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2 Comments

  1. mygingerpig says:

    I believe Shepherd got a lot of pleasure from talking about experiences and pleasures of the past. He talked with spirit about his ham radio early days, for example. That is not nostalgia, or pining for the past. I think by rejecting nostalgia, he rejected the kind of rose colored glasses view of the past that focused on and exaggerated the good parts and left the not so good parts out. Sort of a highlight reel of memory. The idea that “things were better, simpler, easier ‘then’ is what he put down. He certainly reveled in automobilia of the past among other things. But he lived very much in the present.

    Joel

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