This post is a continuation of an ongoing subject. If you’re just tuning in, you should start at the first blog post on this subject, which you can read here.
Stephen Chbosky’s novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is written in letter format. This is a format I have much interest in myself, and I intend to write a full-length book in this type of format one day. It’s called the epistolary novel, just if you’re interested. Perhaps this is one of the first reasons I am attracted to the novel, or at least, one of the first reasons I am able to acknowledge.
Right off the bat, another reason grabs my attention. The novel’s first letter begins in the year 1991. As a child born in 1987, I am a full-on 90s kid. I am immediately going to relate to this kid in the novel, right? There are entire books written on 1990s culture, which is something to marvel at alone. The influencing culture of my childhood is so important that people are writing entire books on the subject.
Colin Harrison wrote one such book, American Culture in the 1990s, in which he made some summarizing remarks about the decade as a whole:
“Memory and nostalgia…took on a special significance in the 1990s, when it was not simply that the past was rapidly disappearing but that the very modes of remembering and representing it had become problematic. Preoccupations with memory were widespread in popular film…The struggle for authority over the representation of the past was also central to the politics of minority groups…I will try to resist the temptation to claim that the 1990s have a definitive spirit and focus instead on the remarkable heterogeneity of the 1990s.”
Now, this is just a small sample of what Harrison has to say, and it would be wise to pick up a copy and read the entire book. If you aren’t sure what “heterogeneity” is, don’t be embarrassed because I didn’t have a clue either until I looked it up. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as the “composition from diverse elements or parts.” So basically, the 90s was a diverse time all caught up in nostalgia, while simultaneously being pushed into modern technology and the Y2K era, if I can summarize what I think is going down here in my own words.
I guess taking all this time to get an idea of the time frame this novel is being written in seems crazy, but it matters. It especially matters because I am trying to justify why I am keeping this novel on my shelf at all, and if it is set in a time I grew up in, it is easy to understand there is an immediate emotional connection with the time frame. On top of that, my further reading on the subject is telling me that us 90’s kids were all caught up in nostalgia, so I am in essence doomed to want to hold onto this novel for “old times sake.”
Now, you want to talk about close reading as a way to learn about yourself and the material you are reading? I just spent nearly 500 words discussing the date. The date. How cool is the discovery, though?
I just found out I likely have a predisposition for nostalgia. I just learned that this book was written in a the setting of a time period that has a predisposition for nostalgia. Connections, my friends. Connections.
Hey, maybe we will get past the date and actually into the words next time, huh?
My Sources, yo:
Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket Books, 1999. Print.
Harrison, Colin. American Culture In The 1990S. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 15 June 2015.
“heterogeneity, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 15 June 2015.