Dateline Madison, Wisconsin: The genre of reminiscence is obsolete, announced an administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, who declined to be identified because she had not been authorized to speak to the press.
“We have enough stories of attending one room schools now,” the unnamed official said. “Rural electrification, too. Nostalgia is over. There’s no more need for it.”
Time is a moving vehicle and we’ll never stop wanting the bittersweet experience of looking in the rear-view mirror that gave nostalgia its name. (From Greek algos “pain, grief, distress” + nostos “homecoming.”) It’s just that what’s reflected there moves on, too.
Someone actually did say those words to me–reminiscence is over, the stories are collected. I had called inquiring about the fate of the writing contests once offered by the Wisconsin Rural Writers Association, (now the Wisconsin Writers Association) administered by the aforementioned office of the university. These had been a big deal, with hundreds of entries, significant cash prizes for winners, and annual anthologies published that did, indeed, include many stories of one room schools and rural electrification.
I was rendered breathless, absolutely gobsmacked, that an apparently fully-functional decently-educated adult could say those words. Could she not see, as I did, that exciting new stories were being written about the past that replaced that rural idyll?
I’ll never forget the moment one of my writing students read an essay in class that described smoking marijuana for the first time. “All right!” I thought. “Things are about to get interesting!” And they did–later she read about an acid trip. That’s my past, and as compelling to me as my parents’ generation’s stories of simpler times.
As for the writing contests sponsored by WRWA/WWA? Under reconstruction at this time. The old is making way for the new. Again.