This is the first year when I’m exactly twice as old as my Freshman students. Being in academia helps one connect with young people and remain younger for longer. Still, I’m afraid that a moment will come when I will lose touch and become irrelevant to my students.

I’ve been reading this recent mystery novel by my favorite Ruth Rendell. The writer is 82 years old and she still publishes 2 books a year, which is beyond admirable.

However, in her new novel The St. Zita Society, it has become obvious for the very first time that the writer has fallen behind the times. There is a scene in the novel where her 20 and 30-year-old characters all go out to get their favorite newspapers. As we all know, this makes no sense because people of these age groups do not read news on paper. If for whatever reason they do experience a need to keep themselves informed, they will read a paper on their Kindle and iPad, find an online version, or turn on the TV (even though this is the practice that is also dying out among the younger folks.)

The 24-year-old protagonist who is anxious to find if something that bothers her has been mentioned on the news never Googles the information. She waits for a newspaper to come out.

Whenever characters need a carpenter or a plumber, they look for a phone book.

Nobody does an online search or updates their Facebook status. Nobody reads or writes a blog. Nobody has a tablet of any sort. We are talking about characters who are, for the most part, quite young. Yet they don’t do the things that define the life of young people today.

I know I still have 46 years to go before I reach Rendell’s age, but I’m still kind of worried.

P.S. If you are Ruth Rendell’s  fan, I do not recommend this novel. It’s one of the most indifferent and boring pieces of writing this author has ever produced. And there is no mystery whatsoever, either.


8 thoughts on “Anachronistic

  1. I think children and grandchildren help “one connect with young people and remain younger for longer” for people of all professions, who’re open to it. After all, you don’t see students in their free, party time, but one’s young relatives will both demonstrate and tell you about it. Unless they’re very loner types, of course. One of plusses of having kids. 🙂


  2. To some extent, simply keeping up with the technology yourself – using google, having a Kindle, etc, should help prevent you getting as out of touch as the author.
    However, I also think I sometimes see older folks assuming too much about new technology – like my boss will sometimes make comments where she assumes that everyone has an iPad, because she has one, but the truth is, most of us younger folks in the company cannot afford to buy an iPad when they’re not really that useful to our work. This boss will sometimes make comments about giving out iPad accessories as prizes at recruiting events, for example, when I’m really not sure we can assume that “everyone” has one.


  3. You might like Neal Stephenson’s Reamde. Besides for being a very funny book (do not let the 1,000 pages keep you away), it is a thriller that integrates the reality of the 21st century (things like facebook) into the plot.


  4. I read a mystery novel a few years ago that was taking place in the future (2020 maybe?) but the whole plot hinged on a law firm that copied all its data to disks and then erased it from their computers without making any backups. And since the author was unaware of networking, everyone had to go into the office to “download” the data to disk. So someone committed a crime and then broke into the law office to steal the disks with the evidence, and the protagonist had to piece together what was missing to know who did it. It was excruciatingly boring.


  5. Hey, in this novel I was working on, someone used the phone book. And I’m young! They were looking for the phone number of a character who’s a lawyer . . . I still think it’s faster to look that stuff up in a phone book than the Internet because you’ve got to comb through the results. Although reading over it, I was starting to get worried because my characters aren’t constantly on their phones or the Internet . . . also, they use the Internet, but not smartphones. The funny thing is it’s based on something I wrote in high school (it’s much different now, of course), and that wouldn’t have even been something I needed to worry about back then! I don’t think anyone used the computer for anything except email, IMs, and research back then . . . at least, not anyone I knew did, anyway.


  6. I guess I’m an anachronism because I do not have a Kindle, Ipad, or a cell phone with internet access. Are these characters poor by any chance? Because data plans for any of these things are horrendously expensive, at least where I live. I’m broke so I check news aggregation sites. Although reading the blurb, I don’t understand why Ruth Rendell is even putting a cell phone in the story, if she’s going to have young characters look up a phone number in a phone book and not complain about it. Or have an explanation baked into the plot as to why they avoid the internet.


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