Imagine reading a story about a young couple who travel from Boston to Albany, stopping along the way to feed the horses and bed down under the stars. It’s 1820 and the trip is expected to take at least a week. Now imagine a modern reader who complains that the couple should have driven a car so that the trip would only be a fewhours long.
Now imagine that it’s 1820 and you’re visiting a rice plantation in South Carolina. Perhaps you’re traveling on a lumber ship off the west coast of America and the crew is taking some down-time tossing dice and spinning yarns. Maybe even a new centurion rounding up street gangs in East L. A. What do you see? What do you hear? Is everything Politically Correct by 2200 standards? Should they be?
Standards, especially moral standards, are relative. Crime, slavery, even naughty words, are relative to the time they occur and such factors such as geography, politics, maturity, Why is it any more ridiculous to have an automobile in 1820 than to have field workers earning $15 an hour in the American south that same year? I’d recommend that if you write the book, take the buggy unless you are Buckaroo Banzai.
I’ve noticed that current fiction makes liberal use of the word “Fuck” when a character from 1820 might actually be condemned for simply blurting out “Oh Nubbins!” Also, I recently read two tomes which exposed an abundance of open sex in Fourteenth Century England, far more than I experienced or even imagined in 1950s Southern California.
I’m comfortable with the concept of fiction, but consistency counts. No space ships over the Plains of Nazca … unless … Anyway, these titles are calling out to me in April:
- City of the Beasts — Allende, Isabel
- Maddaddam — Atwood, Margaret
- Lost Illusions — Balzac, Honoré de
- Talk to Me — Boyle, T. C.
- When the Killing’s Done — T. C. Boyle
- A Walk in the Woods — Bryson, Bill
- The Transmigration of Timothy Archer — Dick, Philip K.
- Jennie Gerhardt — Dreiser, Theodore
- The Financier — Theodore Dreiser
- The Twenty-Seventh City — Franzen, Jonathan
- “F” Is for Fugitive — Grafton, Sue
- The Confidential Agent — Greene, Graham
- Your Face Tomorrow: Dance and Dream — Javier Marías
- The Unicorn — Iris Murdoch
- The Man Without a Shadow — Joyce Carol Oates
- The Book of Form and Emptiness — Ozeki, Ruth
- Sunday — Georges Simenon
- Oil! — Sinclair, Upton
- Riding Toward Everywhere — Vollmann, William T.
- Welcome to the Monkey House — Vonnegut, Kurt