In PRISM 53:1, Michael LaPointe writes about nostalgia in “Flight Simulator,” a funny, thought-provoking short story about a young man’s search for his past. We asked Michael whether he’s nostalgic for any books from his childhood. He was kind enough to share a few words:
“My late grandfather gifted me Gianni Gudalupi and Alberto Manguel’s Dictionary of Imaginary Places in 1998, either for Christmas or my eleventh birthday. I spent countless hours going through this dense, unwieldy book in no particular order, my eyes now and then alighting with curiosity on one especially vivid place-name—Doonham, Venalia, Lomb. Although the word imaginary is right there in the title, somehow I must have ignored this important detail, because I used to write my own stories about the places, using the information from the entry to form what were thin, no doubt ersatz palimpsests over the original tales. My grandfather wisely inscribed the dictionary, “Some of the best voyages of all are to imaginary places of the mind.” In general, I try to resist the nostalgic urge, which seems to me a romantic turning away from reality, a form of selective remembrance that carves an ideal memory from its less ideal context. Nevertheless this book holds a nostalgic quality, no doubt because the imaginary nature of nostalgia is programmed into my experience of these places: both are fictional. The dictionary serves to remind me that every memory is a voyage to an imaginary place of the mind.”
On the subject of nostalgia, here are a few childhood favourites from the folks here at PRISM:
Clara Kumagai, Executive Editor, Promotions
The book I’m most nostalgic for is James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, which I read and re-read constantly at the age of nine or ten. It was at a time when I was obsessed with animals and had vowed to be a vet when I grew up. James Herriot was a semi-autobiographical character created by English author James Alfred Wight, and his stories and novels were based on his own life as a vet in rural Yorkshire in the 1940s. So it was a bit incongruous that a small girl in Loughrea, County Galway was identifying with his books. From them I learned things like how to cure a cow of acute stomach gas and how hard cat hysterectomies are, and I thought that at some point in my life this knowledge would actually come in useful (hasn’t happened yet but who knows). I read the five hundred page book so often that, in the end, the librarian of my tiny local library just told me I could keep it. Which I did.
Rob Taylor, Poetry Editor
Few books gave me more joy as a child than Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. I no longer own a copy of the book, and I admit that I had to look up the plot summary on the internet. But when I did—oh! Mrs. Gorf turning herself into an apple and then being eaten by Louis the yard teacher. Mrs. Jewls’ DISCIPLINE list. The new kid, Sammy, who wouldn’t take off all his rain coats (spoiler alert: dead rat). And the one part for which I didn’t need a reminder: there is no chapter 19. Just the words “There is no Miss Zarves. There is no nineteenth floor. Sorry.” All that white space, bursting with possibility! Oozing with negative capability! The poet in elementary-school me stirred a little, perhaps for the first time
Nicole Boyce, Prose Editor
I’m a very nostalgic person, so this was a tough choice for me. I settled on Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman because the book’s funny, engaging voice piqued my interest in character-driven writing. The book—set in the 13th century—follows Catherine, a teenager who goes to great lengths to avoid marriage and embroidery, much to her parents’ chagrin. I loved Catherine’s angst; if LiveJournal had existed in the 13th century, this is what it might have looked like. I also loved the historical details—minstrels, Michaelmas, vellum, oh my!—and the comically awful suitors (Catherine, of course, foils them at every turn). Re-reading the book this summer, I had flashes back to a time when I was enchanted by medieval names, Robin Hood movies, and the exclamation “Corpus bones!”
To read “Flight Simulator,” pick up a copy of PRISM 53:1!