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are we entitled to contemporary accuracy?
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1549

PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 8:40 pm    Post subject: are we entitled to contemporary accuracy? Reply with quote

I recently came across a scene in a Diana Palmer book in which a nurse tells a new mother her baby will open its eyes in three days. (My husband's comment: "that's *puppies*.") And there was another one with some weird, probably made up statistic about percentage of men capable of having multiple orgasms. (Which in context was clearly actually referring to consecutive erections.) Not to mention all the misinformation I come across in books about pregnancy and disease and birth control which I've already blathered on about previously because it's my Hot Button.

Am I really the only person who's bothered by stuff like this?
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LinnieGayl



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 824

PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, you're not the only one. I can be completely thrown from a book by something that I know is inaccurate....but that only happens in things I know something about. For example, I read one romance several years ago that mentioned the heroine was hopping on the L in downtown Chicago and was taking it to Oak Brook (a suburb) where she lived. Sorry, but I know Oak Brook very well, and the L doesn't run there.

In another book, the heroine was a psychiatrist. But based on descriptions of the heroine, it was clear what the author really meant was that she was a psychologist...big difference.
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LeeB.



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Errors about locations in cities I know very well (Chicago and Seattle) really annoy me.

And misspelling of celebrity names drive me up a wall. How the heck does that happen? It's not like celebrity names aren't all over the internet, on tv, in movies, and on magazines in checkout lines at the grocery store.
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Elaine S



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
Posts: 667
Location: Rural England

PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:05 am    Post subject: Re: are we entitled to contemporary accuracy? Reply with quote

willaful wrote:
Am I really the only person who's bothered by stuff like this?


No, you are not alone. It's just more evidence of sloppy editing and bad research - even something as reading a map or looking up the proper spelling of a placename. I am reading a book right now that called Fresno in California "Frenco". I thought at first it was a store until I realised what it referred to. Maybe it was a typo.

Sometimes when you read a sex scene you realise the H/H would have to be made of rubber to contort themselves into the positions described and, as to the serial erections/orgasms/ejaculations - chance would be a fine thing!!!
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Charlotte McClain



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
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Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That kind of stuff drives me bananas. I'm still scarred by Stephen King's expanded The Stand where he has a group of soldiers trying to keep peace at Kent State and sends them charging up a very steep, heavily treed hill guns blazing when they would have needed to use their hands to climb. I happened to be reading that in my dorm room that overlooked the very location he was describing.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't like product names in my contemporary romance...although there is a certain author with a huge following who does just that. That product naming just rips me out of the story because it seems like a break for a commercial. Very annoying and frankly, a lazy way to get the point across. I also hate when the hero or heroine smokes a couple cigarettes then pops on their expensive running shoes to do five miles (another famous author who probably smokes, but probably doesn't run...well, maybe to the store to get more cigarettes). It just doesn't happen, and if it does, that person is just stupid.
About getting a town or city right. Doesn't really bother me. A handful of authors have used Minneapolis as a setting in their books, and a couple actually are from here, and still got it wrong. I don't mind...it's fiction and that's just fine as long as the difference isn't too laughable.
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MrsFairfax



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 8:24 pm    Post subject: Re: are we entitled to contemporary accuracy? Reply with quote

willaful wrote:
I recently came across a scene in a Diana Palmer book in which a nurse tells a new mother her baby will open its eyes in three days. (My husband's comment: "that's *puppies*.")


LOL! Once when I was out with my sleeping baby daughter, I had a teenager ask me, "ain't her eyes opened yet?" Perhaps she was a Palmer fan?

My pet peeve is lack of consistency. I recently read a book in which the heroine was somewhat obsessed with her lack of height. She was described at various points in the book as 5'3", 5'1", 5' 2 1/2" and 5' 3' again.

I also get annoyed when people talk about the new moon rising, which I ran across in a book this week.
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Amanda



Joined: 25 Aug 2008
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Location: the midwest

PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the most recent SEP thread someone said that they were bothered a bit by Nobody's Baby But Mine because the material was dated. I've thought more than once that when a contemporary is more than five years old, it's actually become a historical. What do you think about that? Should contemporary authors work harder make sure their material isn't too easily dated?

If you've followed the progression of Janet Evanovitch's Stephanie Plum series they started it using pagers, then had pagers and cell phones and now only have cell phones. I get a kick out of the transition.
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LinnieGayl



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 824

PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Amanda, interesting comments. For me how "dated" a contemporary feels really depends on the author. I like a lot of chick lit, but some of it can feel dated fairly quickly based on the number of brands/designers mentioned.

On the other hand, some contemporary authors can be vague enough in terms of styles/trends/etc., that their works don't feel dated at all.

Then again, I keep going back to a couple books by Jayne Anne Krentz -- Trust Me and Absolutely Positively -- that featured technologies that weren't even available when she wrote the books. For me, those books still feel very current....and just how did she do it?
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I've thought more than once that when a contemporary is more than five years old, it's actually become a historical. What do you think about that? Should contemporary authors work harder make sure their material isn't too easily dated?


I don't think so. Can't we just consider it "historical" much as we would do with say Nancy Mitford's novels? I think the danger of a contemporary author trying too hard to avoid sounding dated in five years time is that the book will become amorphous and not really feel as though it fits anywhere. If the story is good enough it should be able to transcend time and continue to speak to a reader. (Even if she doesn't know what a quadrophonic sound system was. Cool That's what reader notes are for.) I still find Mary Stewart's novels as enjoyable when I re-read them today as I did when I first read them over thirty years ago. And even then some of them were twenty years old. Part of the joy is that "other" world.

Jane Austen's characters still speak to us as do Mitford's even though the worlds they created are long gone. Human nature remains and a good story should be able to bridge the gap in time. We're having a Stanley Kubrik fest on tv right now. Those films in a way are dated in terms of their sets, fashions and attitudes. Yet in a deeper way they haven't dated at all. Which is why I'm posting here and chickening out of watching A Clockwork Orange. If it had dated in that deeper way I'd be able to watch it again. As it is, I'd rather not have to avoid Beethoven for several years!

Elizabeth
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elizabeth Rolls wrote:
I think the danger of a contemporary author trying too hard to avoid sounding dated in five years time is that the book will become amorphous and not really feel as though it fits anywhere. If the story is good enough it should be able to transcend time and continue to speak to a reader. [......] Human nature remains and a good story should be able to bridge the gap in time. We're having a Stanley Kubrik fest on tv right now. Those films in a way are dated in terms of their sets, fashions and attitudes. Yet in a deeper way they haven't dated at all.

Yes, I totally agree with what and how you said it, Elizabeth. I believe something may be lost if contemporary writers try too hard to keep something "undated" and general. I suppose there are the obvious things that could be omitted, but that's usually in hindsight. Since we're living it now and it's a part of our lives now, it makes sense to write about it now, too.

And technology is advancing at rates well above how it did in the past. It's almost impossible not to notice those changes as dramatic even just a couple of years up the road. Of course, the classic example is the telephone. Every household has at least one, true? When I was a young girl, that was not true. And when we finally did get a phone, two or more different households had to share it (called a party-line). It was a luxury to have a private line; and even though you paid extra for it, it was not always available to everyone in certain populated areas. Actually, my father had the phone installed for only one reason. My mother was beginning to work as a substitute and she needed a phone so they could call her. Now here's the kicker, proving "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Our home no longer has a landline. We rely on our cell phones.

So, as you said, if the story is good, it will transcend time and speak to the reader. Absolutely no reason that a contemporary, in five years' time, should be called a historical.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

. I believe something may be lost if contemporary writers try too hard to keep something "undated" and general. I suppose there are the obvious things that could be omitted, but that's usually in hindsight. Since we're living it now and it's a part of our lives now, it makes sense to write about it now, too.


.[/quote]


Yes, but on the other hand, they can try harder not to mention the most current and oh-so-popular product naming. I don't think the mention of current technololgy is a problem but the mention of movie stars, popular people in the media, product names for shoes, shampoo, dog food...you name it. The author should be able to describe something without relying on a real product. That is what completely dates a book. It's sort of like the beautiful movie, Ladyhawke with the horrendous soundtrack. That disco music with those wah-wah guitar sounds makes me want to watch it with the mute button on! Just think how lovely it would be with just an orchestra playing appropriate music. Same goes for contemporary fiction...not just romance. One or 2 product placements, but some authors go overboard with it all and surprise....5 years down the road the book is dated.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
I don't think the mention of current technololgy is a problem but the mention of movie stars, popular people in the media, product names for shoes, shampoo, dog food...you name it.

I agree with you about the movie stars and popular people, xina, because they can fall by the wayside almost overnight. Not too much later, we ask ourselves, "Who's Dan Quayle?" After being the focus of much humor during his tenure as vice president, he silently went away, as do other famous people. So I do agree with you there. But I think some things are difficult to stay away from because they're so much a part of our lives without our really thinking very hard about it.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you about the movie stars and popular people, xina, because they can fall by the wayside almost overnight. Not too much later, we ask ourselves, "Who's Dan Quayle?" After being the focus of much humor during his tenure as vice president, he silently went away, as do other famous people. So I do agree with you there. But I think some things are difficult to stay away from because they're so much a part of our lives without our really thinking very hard about it.[/quote]



Agree about famous people falling by the wayside....Who's Sarah Palin will be next! (hopefully)
I do notice the lack of cell phones in "older" books...and movies and tv too. I'm a late-comer to The Jerry Seinfeld show...I watch them now, and there was an episode where Elaine was looking for her car in a parking garage. Jerry went to another level to look and she found it on her level. Instead of pulling out her phone and calling him she shouted "Jerry...where are you!!??" Ah, we don't know how lucky we are to have those things. Wink
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:

Yes, but on the other hand, they can try harder not to mention the most current and oh-so-popular product naming. I don't think the mention of current technololgy is a problem but the mention of movie stars, popular people in the media, product names for shoes, shampoo, dog food...you name it. The author should be able to describe something without relying on a real product. That is what completely dates a book. It's sort of like the beautiful movie, Ladyhawke with the horrendous soundtrack. That disco music with those wah-wah guitar sounds makes me want to watch it with the mute button on! Just think how lovely it would be with just an orchestra playing appropriate music. Same goes for contemporary fiction...not just romance. One or 2 product placements, but some authors go overboard with it all and surprise....5 years down the road the book is dated.


Of course an author can overdo the references to pop culture, contemporary fashions, etc... (e.g. certain designer brandname riddled variations of chick lit) and there is a pretty good chance that some of them may become dated. But I still prefer that to the sort of bland eternal present found in some contemporary romances where the hero's favourite movie is always Casablanca, the characters always listen to classic rock or maybe are into classical music or jazz and everybody wears jeans and plain t-shirts, because those never go out of style.

Now there are plenty of people who love old movies (though very few people in the real world name Casablanca as their all-time favourite), listen to classic rock, jazz, classical music, opera, etc... and wear nothing but jeans and t-shirts. But it still strikes me as odd when I read a contemporary romance with characters approximately my age, who never watched Star Wars or Beverly Hills 90210 or Transformers cartoons as children and couldn't resist watching last year's live action version, who never were into heavy metal or grunge or 1980s electro-pop, never owned a Barbie or a Cabbage Patch doll and never played a videogame in their lives and never wear anything that might actually by in fashion now. Because while these characters supposedly are of my generation, they don't feel like any people I know because they live in some sort of timeless limbo. And yes, even young people who are into vintage movies, opera, jazz or similar interests usually have enjoyed something contemporary at some point in their lives.

Yes, a reference to contemporary pop culture will probably become dated, but the book will be dated anyway. And besides, even Jane Austen included references to fashion and the pop culture of her day - references so dated to be utterly meaningless without footnotes - and yet we still read her.
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