This month I am presenting a number of pieces that employ memory—often of times that are quite distant in the authors’ histories—in order to show the different ways in which the past, though long gone, continues to shape who we are today.
I like “Drive-by Teeth” by Gail Peck because it encapsulates a phenomenon that becomes more and more prevalent as we get older—people and places that are gone loom larger and larger in our minds, and we feel that they have formed who we are—and yet they are irretrievably lost. This goes beyond any sense of nostalgia. We walk around with these lost people and places, for they are integral parts of us, although it has been a long time since they’ve been here.
I like “Five Pieces," by Andrea Della Monica because diverse human experiences are used to dramatize themes that are very closely linked. Whether we’re talking about a set of tattoos, ancient friendships, the illusions of love, an old sewing kit, or a “muscle man,” all of them have provided moments that, when totaled up, orchestrate the significance of what it means to be a human being.
I like “Cheap Charlie’s” by Theodore Frederick because it is a Vietnam snapshot—a snippet from a world that is long gone. This is one of the pleasures of reading—being taken to a place that no longer exists, which exists today in only a “fictional” sense, although we are reading nonfiction. This phenomenom is part of what we mean when we use the term “creative nonfiction.”
Another piece with overtones of Vietnam is “At Happy Hour” by Don Adams. I like this piece because it jumps around among multiples states of mind in multiple locales at different times, while employing all of this diverse material in achieving the unifying effect of giving us a full, complex portrait of a character. Again, these are times and places that have been lost to history but persist in memory, and so they have acquired a depth that defines who a person continues to be.
However you choose to negotiate the past in terms of what it means to you today, I am interested in reading you work. I invite you to submit nonfiction on a topic of your choice. I’m looking for creative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, memoirs, and personal essays—with the understanding that these categories often overlap—up to 10,000 words. Please submit work directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to enjoying your work!