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are we entitled to contemporary accuracy?
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Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1129
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bavarian wrote:

Some of You mentioned product names often used by some authors. As I'm not living in the US for me these books are not enjoyable! I can't tell if the mentioned chocolate is an especially good or bad one, if the shoes by a certain designer are very fashionable or just the opposite. It makes reading quite difficult. In this context I could also mention the naming of TV shows and TV celebrities not known in Europe.

It's American chocolate. Likely, it's not very good compared to what we're used to. ;)

And foreign celebrity, TV show and pop culture references are hit and miss, because some transcend their country of origin, others don't. For example, I hate it when characters in American books start waxing poetic about baseball (and for some reason it's always baseball), because I know nothing about the game beside what it looks like, don't know any rules or stars and don't find it particularly interesting either. However, it is perfectly possible to read Susan Elizabeth Philips' Chicago Stars books without knowing anything about American Football.

I think, the test is always whether one can understand the reference from the context or at least know what they're talking about (Is it a sports star, a TV show, a singer), even though one is not familiar with the brand/celebrity/pop culture phenomenon they're talking about.

I actually used to test such references with a pop culture immune friend (no TV, no exposure to pop music beyond 1970, no celebrity mags, no sports fandom, no brandname awareness). If she could still follow a story even though she had no idea what the reference was, I had done my job.
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Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 221

PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Speaking of which . . . Did you know that the Sweet Valley High books are being rereleased? They've been updated so that Elizabeth types her newspaper articles on a laptop instead of a typewriter, and everyone has mobile phones!

Archie comics does that all the time, with mixed success. I had to groan when I saw a recent strip where Midge Klump was listening to something that was obviously a transistor radio, and they changed her dialogue bubble to say that she was listening to an iPod. Ipods don't have antennas or knobs.

My only reaction is puzzlement. Is there really still an audience for the relatively wholesome, occasionally bland stories of the eternally sixteen Wakefield twins, in an industry where Gossip Girl and related series have cornered a huge share of the market?

After the huge success of Twilight, retro values are supposedly in again. Lots of analysts have talked about Edward's vampirism as a huge metaphor for abstinence, with Bella having to talk him into it, and his steadfast refusal to engage in anything until they're married. Fantasy is sometimes all about escapism and in today's modern world, the perpetual sunshine world of the Wakefield twins can look pretty darned appealing. The girls are never pressured into sex, no one gets an STD, killed by drunk driving, or an addiction to alcohol/drugs, and teens are always going to dances instead of studying out their eyeballs for tests.

Back on topic, my tolerance for contemporary errors is pretty good, provided that the error isn't huge and glaring e.g a flight going to Tacoma from the Seattle airport. Contemporary references are trickier because too many and the book feels dated, too few and the book feels oddly divorced from any sense of time or place. I think that Megan Cabot probably does the best job of capturing a teen in this modern world, through both the smart use of technology and the constant stream of in-jokes and references. Like it or not, with e-mail forwarding, youtube and the web at our fingertips, young people are more likely now than ever to use pop culture references. Go into a crowd of 14-28 year olds and say: "Charlie the unicorn". You're likely to get a burst of laughter and a bunch of references, while people outside of that range are likely to give you blank looks. Will this date the books? Perhaps, but anyone who has read an annotated Shakespeare play will know that Shakespeare was full of time specific jokes, puns and references.
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