Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How time flies

Yesterday, I read a novel. It was "beach-reading," mindless fiction, just the thing for a hot summer day, even if there was no surf, no shore. As I read along, three very funny things happened.

The hero, who had moved in to an apartment below the heroine, came upstairs to use her telephone because he was waiting for his to be installed. What, I thought? That's lame. How come this high-powered lawyer doesn't have a cell phone?

Later in the story (set in Boston), the hero insists on taking the heroine to the airport. A chivalrous offer indeed. Her flight leaves at 4 pm; he says he'll pick her up at 3 pm. Yikes! To get to Logan? They arrive in plenty of time, and he waits with her at the gate.

In a major complication, the hero needs to dig into the heroine's past, so like any good legal investigator, he flies to Chicago to read back copies of the local newspapers in the library there. Hmmm. Doesn't he know that all those articles are available on the web?

But this story was written way back in 1984, long before cell phones, the Big Dig, airport security, and electronic databases. I don't expect Elizabeth Bennet or Isabel Archer to whip out their cell phones or fire up their computers, but a seemingly modern novel with such glaring anomalies really caught my attention and made me go back to look at the publication history. The novel first appeared in paperback in 1992 and was then reprinted in 2000. "Seemingly modern" indeed. I guess it wasn't good enough to revise, but too good to let go out of print.

Not that our students read for pleasure, but most of them weren't born when this book was first published. They would have been 3 or 4 when it first appeared in paperback, and 10 or 11 when it was reprinted. I don't think they've ever had a landline nor been able to wait for someone at the gate, but even I read old newspapers on fiche or film in high school, way before this book was first published.


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