Timeless vs. Dated

I love to read all sorts of books–just nothing too scary or gory. Many years ago, I had two favorite authors: John Grisham and Agatha Christie. I loved mysteries. Then my in-laws introduced me to Mary Higgins Clark and Catherine Coulter, and romantic suspense novels became my favorite reading material. About this time, I also read Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook, which is probably my favorite book. It’s definitely the only one I’ve read several times. I read every book I could find by these five authors and waited expectantly for each of their new books to be released.

The nice thing about reading the classics, and even historical fiction, is the timelessness of the story. When you pick up a novel by Jane Austen, you know the setting will be the England of the late 18th century or early 19th century. When you begin a Western, you know you’ll be reading about the American Old West. In both of these settings, the reader knows what to expect in terms of technology or the lack thereof. There were no phones, no electricity, no running water, etc.

Contemporary novels written in just the last ten years have become dated thanks to the invention and supposed necessity of cell phones and, more recently, smart phones. In the past few years, I have been reading a lot of Christian fiction from our church library, and while there are plenty of new releases, many of the books I have enjoyed were written in the last ten years or so. It is interesting to read something that is just several years old and realize how our lives have changed and how dependent we have become on being able to have instant communication. When I begin to read a contemporary novel, I now look at the copyright date to orient myself before I begin to expect the characters to have cell phones with them at all times.

I appreciate when authors maintain the integrity of the characters in their series. Even though Dee Henderson wrote Jennifer in the past year or so, the story was set before the other O’Malley books, so the characters carried pagers instead of cell phones. It was something small that might not be a big deal, but I’m sure she knew her readers would not expect the characters to have our current technology. Even though this detail dated the story, it was important. While being “dated” is usually not a good thing, I prefer reading about the lives of characters who seemed a little more relaxed and less technology-dependent than we are.

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