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That's So Dated
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2477

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although one of the qualifications for making it into the literary canon is timelessness, nonetheless readers of the books that belong to the canon face some "dated-ness" of contents. In most instances, dated atittudes and dated dress don't detract from whatever it has that gets a book into the canon. If romances of earlier decades are good in other regards, I can't see why dated attitudes and dated dress would matter that much.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
If romances of earlier decades are good in other regards, I can't see why dated attitudes and dated dress would matter that much.

That's pretty much my attitude, also, dick. If the story is good enough to sink your teeth into, the rest is "history," as far as I'm concerned.
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 11:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cora wrote, " what was perfectly acceptable even twenty or thirty years ago now seems repulsive. For example, I cringe when I read the n-word or any other racist term in an older text."

I am very curious, Cora, what book, written since 1960, uses the "n" word? I have noticed, over the years, that there aren't many romances set in the South before the Civil War because of the slavery problem. Even the first published modern romance novel, "The Flame and the Flower," which features a stereotypical mammy slave never uses the "n" word, and Brandon treats his slaves as members of the family! I truly cannot remember reading any romance novel which uses racist terms, so I am curious what novels I've missed.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tee wrote:
dick wrote:
If romances of earlier decades are good in other regards, I can't see why dated attitudes and dated dress would matter that much.

That's pretty much my attitude, also, dick. If the story is good enough to sink your teeth into, the rest is "history," as far as I'm concerned.




There is really no way to avoid dating a contemporary novel and really, why would an author even try. Details about everyday life have to come up so, there is really not a way to get around it. The points I brought up were off-track. I was just ranting on the on subject of how some authors address the dress issue, which really has nothing to do with the original post. Rolling Eyes Off subject again I guess...
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sssspro



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 531

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not a big Chick Lit fan to begin with, but all I can think of when DO read one is how "passe" all these references to Jimmy Choo and Prada, and stiletto heels are going to seem in 20 years. Since most of those types of books revolve around what is "in" this minute, I do wonder what the future will hold for them.

As for older books and whether they seem dated to me, it would depend upon the author and the setting. I DO remember reading a book recently, that wasn't that old, but something happened and all I thought was, "why didn't the heroine call the cops on her cell phone" or call her boyfriend or something like that. It seems so second nature today, but even 8 years ago cell phones weren't so prevalent. It ripped me out of the story for a minute or two until I realized the timing of the story.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
There is really no way to avoid dating a contemporary novel and really, why would an author even try. Details about everyday life have to come up so, there is really not a way to get around it.

So very, very true, xina. I think it would be almost impossible for authors to be sure that writing about many of the things prevalent in today's society appear not to be dated in about 10 years or so down the road. Technology is progressing at such a rapid rate; it just ain't possible.

And as to your point about being off subject, I don't think so. It falls right into line as far as the original post question about what dates a book and how it affects us. Your points were definitely not off-track, as these are considerations in a book that you consider interesting enough to comment on--exactly in response to the original question on dating a story.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So very, very true, xina. I think it would be almost impossible for authors to be sure that writing about many of the things prevalent in today's society appear not to be dated in about 10 years or so down the road. Technology is progressing at such a rapid rate; it just ain't possible.

And as to your point about being off subject, I don't think so. It falls right into line as far as the original post question about what dates a book and how it affects us. Your points were definitely not off-track, as these are considerations in a book that you consider interesting enough to comment on--exactly in response to the original question on dating a story.[/quote]



Oh, thanks Tee. Makes me feel so much better. Going of on a rant sometimes sounds a little, well, crazy. hee. Actually, this thread got me thinking to the contemporary I'm reading right now. Not a romance novel exactly, but a general fiction book with a romance in it. The heroine is a 24yr. old grad student working in a museum for the summer. Not one mention of her clothing in detail....only her underwear, which she wore for the hero, but he had it off her in less than a minute. So, I think this author has done a good job on that front anyway. No fashion trends mentioned at all..well, except for her lacy underwear.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
Not one mention of her clothing in detail....only her underwear, which she wore for the hero, but he had it off her in less than a minute. So, I think this author has done a good job on that front anyway. No fashion trends mentioned at all..well, except for her lacy underwear.

Well, if we're going by today's standards, it seems the going thing is no underwear. Or is that only for the Lohans and Spears type of people? Maybe the book you're reading IS dated. It's like buying a car or computer--the minute you pay for it, it's already outdated! Laughing
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lynda X wrote:
Cora wrote, " what was perfectly acceptable even twenty or thirty years ago now seems repulsive. For example, I cringe when I read the n-word or any other racist term in an older text."

I am very curious, Cora, what book, written since 1960, uses the "n" word? I have noticed, over the years, that there aren't many romances set in the South before the Civil War because of the slavery problem. Even the first published modern romance novel, "The Flame and the Flower," which features a stereotypical mammy slave never uses the "n" word, and Brandon treats his slaves as members of the family! I truly cannot remember reading any romance novel which uses racist terms, so I am curious what novels I've missed.


My Mom used to read Civil War and antebellum South set historicals (not just romances, also straight historical fiction), which must have been originally published in the late 1950s through 1970s. I don't remember titles or authors without checking my Mum's library (it's been twenty years since I read them), but some of those books definitely used the n-word. I also seem to remember it showing up in a Arthur Hailey novel, probably Hotel (uttered by a loathsome character). More stunningly, I also found a history textbook from 1972 in the university library which talked about "negro culture".

However, I was mainly referring to popular fiction of the 1920s and 1930s in my post. Not romances, but pulp fiction in the Robert E. Howard vein, which can be stunningly racist at times. Howard's work (and that of lots of other reprinted pulp authors) was actually exorcised from the worst offenders for reprints in the 1960s/70s. Only recently, there have been reprints based on the original magazines or even manuscripts, with the unfortunate side-effect of restoring the racism.

On a similar note, in Germany there is an extremely long running series of crime novellettes called "Jerry Cotton" featuring the adventures of an FBI agent in a New York that never was. The older books from the series, dating from the 1950s and 1960s, were full of all sorts of racist terms for that authentic New York flavour. The German authors probably didn't realize how offensive those terms really were. However, the publisher has quietly been exorcising these terms for reprints.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1127
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KarenS wrote:
Judith McNaught is dating herself when she writes today's contemporaries and she has the heroine dressing in clothing that was in vogue about 20 years ago! I guess when you're sixty-something, it's hard to follow trends of thirty-something women. It's comical in a way, but, sad also that the wrong style of clothes messes up the image of a hip, trendy, contemporary heroine.


Oh dear, yes! I remember a fairly recent McNaught novel - I think it was Every Breath You Take - where the heroine was wearing some chiffon tunic with a pastel floral print for a date with the hero. And I thought, "How old is she supposed to be again?" And then the hero and heroine, who barely knew each other, had sex without a condom, too, which quickly made me check the copyright page again.
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Yulie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 3:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cora wrote:
Dated attitudes with regards to sexism, racism, etc... can be more of a problem, because a lot of what was perfectly acceptable even twenty or thirty years ago now seems repulsive. For example, I cringe when I read the n-word or any other racist term in an older text. I can grudgingly accept it in fiction as part of the attitudes of the time, unless it gets too much. For example, I can read and enjoy Georgette Heyer, though I cringe whenever one of those Jewish moneylenders shows up because of the blatant antisemitism.

Like Lynda, I've never come across the N-word in a romance, and since I haven't read vintage pulp fiction, it's not something I'd have thought of. But I've read Heyer, and the way she writes about Jewish people bothered me (I'm Jewish). I know many people think very highly of her work, and she does write well - but I can't enjoy a book with antisemetic content, even if it's not a major part. I realize those attitudes were more common when she was writing, and may have been true to the period she was writing about, but it makes for a very unpleasant reading experience. It's one thing for Shakespeare to have done it 400 years ago; Heyer wrote many of her books after WW2 and should have known better.

Cora wrote:
Oh dear, yes! I remember a fairly recent McNaught novel - I think it was Every Breath You Take - where the heroine was wearing some chiffon tunic with a pastel floral print for a date with the hero. And I thought, "How old is she supposed to be again?" And then the hero and heroine, who barely knew each other, had sex without a condom, too, which quickly made me check the copyright page again.

That book featured all sorts of dated descriptions; I'm not sure why McNaught didn't make more of an effort to keep it current. Didn't the heroine's father send her to be educated by nuns after she put on a show singing Irish music at his pub as a kid? I mean, nuns? And at least she could have done "Like a Virgin" or something to that effect to make it more believable. The hero's European upbringing also seemed pretty dated to me. I don't think every 20/30 something character in a contemporary romance must be hip and trendy, but they should at least be believable.
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PatW



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Central Maryland

PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yulie wrote:
Cora wrote:
Oh dear, yes! I remember a fairly recent McNaught novel - I think it was Every Breath You Take - where the heroine was wearing some chiffon tunic with a pastel floral print for a date with the hero. And I thought, "How old is she supposed to be again?" And then the hero and heroine, who barely knew each other, had sex without a condom, too, which quickly made me check the copyright page again.

That book featured all sorts of dated descriptions; I'm not sure why McNaught didn't make more of an effort to keep it current. Didn't the heroine's father send her to be educated by nuns after she put on a show singing Irish music at his pub as a kid? I mean, nuns? And at least she could have done "Like a Virgin" or something to that effect to make it more believable. The hero's European upbringing also seemed pretty dated to me. I don't think every 20/30 something character in a contemporary romance must be hip and trendy, but they should at least be believable.


And then there are those of us past "a certain age" (with no children/grandchildren yet) who don't understand or appreciate what is "trendy" - either in dress or music taste... (I might have picked up on the educational background faux pax mentioned though.) Thus I find most references to dress, etc for a 20 or 30 something heroine totally irrelevant anyway and don't notice.
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PatW



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anne Marble asked
Quote:
Can you read and enjoy a book even if you find it dated? Or does that depend on the book itself? (For example, you'll put up with it with a good book but not with a mediocre one.)


I can handle things like, smoking, no cell phones (finding a pay phone), flying pre-security, sex pre-Aids and matters of dress, etc. I have a harder time to attitudes about careers for women, unless that facet is not a major plot point.

I no longer (if I ever did) enjoy books with the forced seduction/rape scenes and really notice and find hard to handle social attitudes showing bigotry about race, sexual orientation, etc. Whether or not the latter keeps me from enjoying an otherwise good book, probably depends on how prevalent or central such matters are to the main characters. And definitely if the book is mediocre I am much less forgiving - this kind of attitude may even turn such a book into a DNF instead of a yawner.

When this question was first asked I was vividly reminded of a mystery series I find terrific - Michael Kahn's legal mysteries featuring Rachel Gold. Attitudes are very progressive - but in the earlier books I keep having to remind myself that finding pay phones or using the library to look up phone numbers in directories is the way things were done pre cell phone and pre internet.... this is hard sometimes as digging out information is a large part of the mystery solutions. BUT because the books are so terrific I get past that.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 11:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yulie wrote:
But I've read Heyer, and the way she writes about Jewish people bothered me (I'm Jewish). I know many people think very highly of her work, and she does write well - but I can't enjoy a book with antisemetic content, even if it's not a major part. I realize those attitudes were more common when she was writing, and may have been true to the period she was writing about, but it makes for a very unpleasant reading experience. It's one thing for Shakespeare to have done it 400 years ago; Heyer wrote many of her books after WW2 and should have known better.
[snipped]


It certainly wasn't unique to Heyer -- I'm old enough to have read a lot of the "original version" Nancy Drew books, which were considerably worse. The practice and attitude is a historical fact that people really need to know if more prominent novels such as Gentleman's Agreement are going to make sense to them, much less the context in which the Mitford sisters lived and the academic quota system that led to the founding of, among other things, Brandeis.
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KayWebbHarrison



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1234
Location: SE VA. USA

PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did anyone else read today's (Sat, 31 May) Blondie comic strip? It reflects this topic very well.

Kay
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