RARA-AVIS: Re: That old stuff

From: jacquesdebierue (jacquesdebierue@yahoo.com)
Date: 16 Jul 2010

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    --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "Anders Engwall" <anders.engwall@...> wrote:
    > OK, so here's another angle. Has anyone else noticed that that some of that
    > old vintage stuff seems considerably more modern than others?


    > Case in point: I just finished John D. MacDonald's "The Price of Murder". A
    > fine read, for sure, but there are certain things in it that dates it just
    > so badly. Most obvious is the almost bullyish attitude towards women;
    > according to JDM they need a firm male fist to keep them in line. "That
    > pretty little wife of yours might benefit greatly if you were to beat her
    > frequently" one of the characters says at one point -- and that's from one
    > of the good guys. I mean -- what the hell is that?

    It's happened to me repeatedly while rereading John D. The best work holds up despite of that datedness problem, some of the other work, not so well.

    > Now, compare this to Ed McBain's "The Con Man" which I finished before that.
    > It's from the same 1957 as JDM's book, yet McBain seems as fresh and
    > contemporary as if it were written yesterday. What gives? Could someone
    > explain why McBain's novel seems more contemporary than JDM's? Any other
    > examples of oldies that seem to be written just a few weeks ago?

    True, McBain holds up very well, one isn't very conscious of the era. He built and explored his characters with depth, and at the same time, he kept a certain distance from the characters and from the reader. I never got the impression that he was trying to suck up to me, or dazzle me, so that I would keep reading.

    Some of the old pulpsters hold up extremely well, starting with Hammett. Also Norbert Davis and William Campbell Gault seem impervious to datedness.

    One of the most timeless of all, at least for me, is Thomas Dewey. His work seems fresh, the older era is there but does not intrude, it feels natural.

    And let's not forget Joseph Conrad. Not long ago I read the great story The Lagoon, and except for a couple of small details, one couldn't possibly tell when it was written. I have noticed that Faulkner doesn't date much, either.



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