Author Archives

Michael Musto

The Problem With Nostalgia

Sascha Kilmer/ Getty, Unsplash, Illustration by Katie Kosma

Michael Musto | Longreads | March 2019 | 8 minutes (2,048 words)

Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be was the hilarious title of Oscar winning actress Simone Signoret’s memoir in 1978, and it’s truer than ever. Seeing the past through rose colored glasses is an increasingly myopic process, especially as technology makes giant strides forward and former modes of communication resound with an astounding obsolescence. As I handily crank out articles like this on my computer and shoot them to my editor via email, do you really think I miss the days when I had to type out a piece on a ratty Smith Corona, make changes with Wite-Out, scissors and Scotch tape, and then hand deliver the thing — sometimes in a blizzard or rain storm — to the publication, only to have to redo the whole process when a rewrite was required (after pre-Google fact-checking took up to an entire day)? Do you somehow assume that I long for a return to the time when I was terrified to leave the house because I could miss a business call? (In the ‘70s, answering machines were not prevalent and cell phones hadn’t yet been invented.) The time when I would regularly cut calls short — even with my own mother — for fear that someone more important, career-wise, might be trying to reach me? (There was no call waiting. You had to pray that anyone who’d gotten a busy signal would try again and again. And not talk too long.) Some survivors and observers longingly look back at eras like that as “a simpler time” and “a more personal moment,” but for a writer like me, it was actually a personal nightmare.
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Every Day I Write the Book

Santiago Felipe / Getty

Michael Musto | Longreads | February 2019 | 8 minutes (2,035 words)

Like a really good book, life has given me way more chapters than I ever expected. Alas, I couldn’t have predicted that as an Italian-American kid growing up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in the 1960s. It was a time of hippie-dippie love and peace — which I read about and saw constantly on TV — though those warm and rosy feelings were apparently reserved only for the young; older people were considered business suited, untrustworthy, corrupt, and pretty much doomed. At the local movie theater, I had the misfortune of catching the 1968 youth exploitation drama Wild In The Streets, in which anyone over 30 was forcibly retired and those over 35 were rounded up for re-learning camps. Seeing this flick at an impressionable age, I wasn’t worldly enough to reject its ideas or realize it was a youth fantasy as perpetuated by the suits. I thought it was a true harbinger of things to come and was horrified by every melodramatic moment. The movie haunted my adolescence, and I went to school sensing that hitting 30 was going to mean the end of meaningfulness, so I’d better live and achieve to the max until I was ready to be carted away.

Listen to Michael Musto read “Every Day I Write the Book” on the Longreads Podcast.

Well, I’m 63 and not only not retired or in an internment camp, but I’m actually doing pretty well. I have a weekly column on a popular site called NewNowNext.com, I get freelance offers (like this one), and I’m asked to appear on TV and in documentaries to give my opinions on various pop cultural topics through the years. What’s more, having produced four books, I’m often asked by agents and publishers to crank out some more. Shady Pines is not beckoning me in the least — but I wish I’d have anticipated that fact, not only as a kid, but in my late 20s, when I thought I had already peaked as a writer. Yes, I felt like a has-been at 28!
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