That's quite a ride: from disease and pain to desirous and dreamy. Nostalgia can be buoyant and pleasurable but it can also breed sentimentality and mawkishness, and I wonder how we avoid the artistic limitations of homesickness while recognizing it as a valuable and sometimes inevitable link to the past. When I'm nostalgic what I want is a homecoming with a place that's been remade in my dreams and memory, and, thus, a place that doesn't exist. How do you write about a place — or about events or people — that no longer exists? This is one of the problems John Edgar Wideman wrestles with in Brothers and Keepers, a memoir about Wideman's imprisoned brother Robby who figuratively (and tragically) disappears for the author when he's between prison visits. How to write about a person who doesn't exist in a place? In Wideman's case, you despair and fail.
The Agnostic Memoirist needs to make contact with the unsentimentalized and anti-mawkish past. Some days it feels to me like a leap of faith. For the dreamy guy, a nice thing, for the writer, not so much.