Happy Monday, everyone!
Over the weekend I was reviewing some work that felt dated to me. It was a chapter from a travel memoir about a couple of women traveling through Italy during the 60s. The writing was beautiful. The language was tight. It was funny. And I learned something about Italian culture that I didn't already know. Yet I couldn't shake this feeling that the writing felt "old."
Often when people talk about books they love, old or new, they talk about the work being timeless. I've felt it myself, and the timelessness seems to be independent of subject matter or the date when the story itself takes place.
If it's not either of those things, then what is it? What makes something feel dated as opposed to being timeless?
As I reflect on it a bit, I wonder if a story starts to feel dated when the emotional backbone of the piece relies on something current, say a story about how important cell phones are. The story can maybe become timeless when the elements can be extracted to something more universal. A story about a cell phone might become timeless when it can be thought of as a story that is about communication in general. In one sense, my current WIP, Cyberlama is about scientists working to allow some people to live a lot longer. If I keep it at that level, the story will quickly become dated. But as I'm working on it and reflecting on it, I realize that the themes of the story can extend beyond modern science to ideas about aging in general. Maybe that is the thing that will make my story feel more worthwhile to the reader. I'm not sure.
What do you think? Are some works more dated than others? Do you think our attempts to identify what is dated versus what is timeless is arbitrary? How do you make sure your own works will endure?