I recently read a review of one of my favorite author’s books and the reviewer stated that she wasn’t going to read the previous books (mentioned in the reviewed book) because the author’s older books tended to be dated due to fashion references. Now one of the books in question is my favorite book by the author and I know that the fashion elements are extensive, but does that truly date the work? It was written in 1991, and the references in the book are accurate for the time.
But all this has made me think. What is the difference between a book written today that takes place in a different time and one that was written during that time? What makes one dated and the other not?
When I first started writing, there were no cell phones. (Yikes!) I would finish a book and start a new project as I shopped the one I had just written. What happened is in my years as an unpublished author, I banked several books that never made it to print until after my first Big Break. Now these books had been written years before and when they got their chance to be a ‘real book’ I had to do things like account for cellphones and make sure I had no references that would render them ‘dated.’ Because that is a big, fat no-no.
I can’t tell you how many times another author has tried to be helpful and suggested that I cut something to keep the book from being dated. But aren’t those just details? Is it possible to take a good story from 1982 and keep it fresh even though the characters have feathered bangs and Jordache jeans? Isn’t it something of a trip down memory lane for those of us, ahem … you who wore Jordache jeans or a glimpse into another time for those who were born after these trends had moved on?
With the rise of amazon.com a great many authors are getting the rights back to their works and republishing after an update. I won’t bore you with all the details about publishing rights and all that, but an author’s backlist can be very important to their current income. But why the need to update?
Is it just part of our society that says ‘old but not really old’ is bad? Where is the line that separates vintage from dated? Antique from needs to go to the trash heap? Or is Vintage just a euphemism for people like me who enjoy the history of objects?
I have a new neighbor in my seventy-year-old neighborhood. He’s remodeling the house—extensively. He’s taking out tile that has been in place for years, original tile just like I have in my own bathrooms. Yes, my tile is not a color that most people use today and I painted and decorated my bathroom around this mosaic tile floor. But it’s got a history. No one puts in tile like that these days. It’s unique and special to me. Dated? Maybe to others.
The world moves so fast these days. Don’t get me wrong. I love the internet and cable TV and having entertainment at my fingertips. But I miss the days of waiting all week to gather around the television with my entire family (Dad included) at 10:30 on a Saturday night to watch the Not Ready for Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live. It was special. If we wanted to watch it, we had to make time to be together to do so. We talked all week about who was hosting, who was going to be a special guest, and what band would play. Are those shows dated now? So I’ve heard, but I still laugh as hard at the Coneheads, Todd and Lisa, and the Samurai skits.
So if you are poking around and see that your favorite author may have written something a while back, give it a try. It might be considered dated. Or it might be a gem. You might just find a diamond and you know what they say. Diamonds are forever.
What do you say? Where do dated and vintage part ways? I’d love to hear from you!