Thursday, March 11, 2010

Back in the Day

I overheard someone complaining about the quality of novels these days. It made me think about the quality of novels "back in the day" and ponder whether the quality has really gone or we've just moved on to new themes and formats.

The thought takes me back (again) to my childhood when I would listen to WKJR, our local radio station, on my handheld, single speaker, AM radio.


I know I'm about to blow some of your minds here, but there was a time before computers and CD's when we had to buy record albums. Remember those? they were pressed from a sheet of vinyl. In my hayday, one could choose to buy a single for the latest, most popular songs. For a long time, my sister and brother had a great collection of singles. I don't remember now why I didn't have a great collection - I might have been too cheap to buy them at the time.

Anyway, the point is this: At that tme, we thought we had reached the pinnacle of popular technology. It was a huge thing when we discovered FM radio. But, at this time, I was listening to AM and trying to sing along and learn all the lyrics.

Of course, the AM radio did not come across as clear as the satellite stuff available nowadays. for this reason, I was convinced (until only recently, I must admit) that I knew the lyrics to the song "Fly Like an Eagle" by the Steve Miller Band.



I thought it went like this:

See the babies
who don't have enough to eat
Shoot the children
with no shoes on their feet
How's the people
Livin' in the streets
Oh, oh, there's a solution

The point here is that this is what we had with the technology available. I could never quite hear the words perfectly so I filled in the blanks with what I thought was real.
The same thing applies to the things we read.

Take, for instance, the famous book by George Orwell: 1984. It was a great story for its time but hardly a head wrenching subject now, since 1984 is long gone.





What about the movie: 2001, A Space Oddyssey, by Stanley Kubrick. A great movie and earily close to our lives today. The difference being that we are already living with this and no longer seem to care about computers controlling our lives.

The same concepts can be applied to the novels of today. Remember the wild popularity of the "Left Behind" series? Those novels really made people wonder.

Now we have 2012-another great story. But, what's going to happen in a couple years when we've lived through the times.

I think that the basic ideas in todays novels may be different, the quality has not changed. I know many great authors today that I find very pleasing to read. Whether these author's remain as interesting in years to come remains to be seen.