Monday, July 19, 2010


Sometimes, when I read books, I don't understand why authors make specific pop culture references. Sometimes they got into great detail about the make and model of a phone or car. Doesn't that immediately date their books?

I'm not a big fan of saying exact times and products in my books. It’s obvious that my story takes place in New York and New Hampshire after September 11, 2001. There is the internet and websites like Facebook and Twitter, which I never explicitly name, and my characters all have smart phones. Beyond that, I don't want to tie my book down too specifically.

I think there are a couple of reasons why authors do this. They know that shows like American Idol and technology like the iPhone are all the rage and they write them into their books to make them feel more relevant to the moment. I would argue that this tendency to write about what are essentially very transient things is dangerous because it will lead to their book being outdated very quickly. Won't there be a time, fairly soon after their books are published, that librarians will start skimming through them and say something like, “This book is too dated.”

Maybe this is part of our culture. Some books have become disposable, like a newspaper or a magazine. Maybe it's the authors trying to use specific details to tell us about their characters. Maybe it’s for the money. Most books don’t make any. But a product placement might pay some bills.

With most books, their place in time is clear—the past, the present or the future. But there are different ways of doing that. When you read Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder doesn't talk about the brand of candy that Pa brings home. We just find out that Pa brought candy. And it was delicious.

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