Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a science fiction novel of the mid seventies. Humanity has conquered death — okay, not quite, but we have certainly extended life for most people (there were always exceptional individuals) at least another 20 years or so) — and has no real material want, so people never grow up, and live in an eternal now with all the pettishness and foolishness of adolescence. This was, with variations, a perfectly common plot in the seventies, usually with a man or woman from now going to the future and slowly growing disenchanted with paradise.
Don’t ask me for titles because a) it was the seventies and I was reading in Portuguese, and the title translations are often funny. b) I didn’t LIKE any of them very much. I just chain read them because I was bored, and then forgot them just as quickly.
If I were writing this sort of thing, I’d call it “The children of the Eternal Now” and have a cover with dancing little nymphs strewing flowers, and a spaceship in the background. Or a time machine. Or something.
But there’s no point writing it, because to a great extent we’re living it. Sure, we haven’t conquered death, and okay, not everyone has every material good they could possibly want. But in the developed countries no one starves to death, and in the undeveloped ones, the reason they do has more to do with their kleptocratic governments than with an insufficiency of food.
Weirdly, and unlike the writers of those warnings against utopia, I don’t think the problem with people is that they have too much and are too comfortable. Oh, some, sure. After all, if you come from a privileged background and mommy and daddy did all the work for you, including making sure you had good grades, and you never had to fight for anything, there’s a chance — not inevitable, but a chance — that you’ll never fully grown up. Humans were created for adversity and strife, and without it there are psychological structures and mechanisms that never emerge.
But most people still have stuff they want. And most people still know adversity, from Mrs. Baker in third grade who hated your guts, to lay offs and being “poor” for a while. (We’ve been very poor at times. Feast or famine is pretty much how our life has gone. We have the bizarre knack of being unemployed at the same time, which considering how different our fields are, is amazing. But we’ve never been third world poor, much less 19th century poor. Hence the quotes.)
But it is those privileged, born with a sterilized spoon in their mouths, never had to do anything but exist and were told how special they were from birth, who are setting the culture. And they ARE the children of the eternal now.
If it weren’t so sad it could kill me laughing that these people who think they are multiculturalists, and sophisticated and claim the right to judge all the past in the light of their vaunted “wisdom” don’t understand how insular they are, how stupid, and how completely ignorant of anything older than fifty years.
As some of you know, because I was so happy about it a few days ago, there have been several books by Patricia Wentworth released recently. I don’t know if her copyright ran out (I know it did in England, but then they couldn’t sell them in the US. Perhaps it’s different when you’re a British author. Or perhaps the copyrights finally reverted to her family. What I know is that every week there’s a batch of books coming out. I’d heard she had hundreds of books, but I could only find the same thirty here, and I read them till they were pulp, then got them in electronic when they were available.
Is she a wonderful writer?
Sort of depends on what you consider wonderful. Her word craft was sometimes lagging (I think she was writing these at six a year or so. She was a widow and supporting her kids) and she sometimes recycled plots, but she had the grace of giving them new twists. What she did really well was bring people to life. I suspect she started out as a discount Agatha Christie. But her voice is different and her touch is different. Just like Agatha Christie is an excellent writer of mysteries, but her thrillers just don’t have “it” (partly because world politics in them are a bit daft) Patricia Wentworth did mysteries, but her heart wasn’t in it.
Miss Silver was the logical equivalent of Miss Marple, but after a while you can tell Patricia got bored with writing cozies, and the answer to any crime Miss Silver solved was “Maud Millicent Simpson is behind it.” And Maud Millicent was a super villain to end all super villains. She could disguise herself to look like anyone. Her criminal connections extended to everything, etc. etc.
As you can probably tell, I rolled my eyes really hard at those books, but I never threw them against the wall, and even re-read them, because the interactions between people were great.
Her formula was hopeless romance+a little crime +a bit of danger+a good bit of late Victorian comfort = fun escapism.
So, I fell on the new releases like an hyena on three days dead, runny zebra. All the more so since since February a week hasn’t gone by without a disaster. There’s been big ones, small ones, and ones we can’t do anything about. (Which is why I am again on Prednisone. I’m going to be so fat and bald, but I couldn’t endure itch all over my body, or open sores ditto, anymore.)
And then I came across (on a few of her books) a bunch of preening, self-satisfied reviews by the children of the eternal now.
Take this one, for instance, on a book called Will o’ the wisp:
I have read almost everything Patricia Wentworth has written. Her books are eminently readable and entertaining, with happy endings. Yes, they are dated; as such they may have a rare politically incorrect reference. Yet even when making such allowances, this book is simply offensive. In many series from this era men call women of whom they are fond “my dear child.” Men marry their cousins. Couples marry young. However, in this book the love interest of the protagonist is an immature, damaged, twisted teen who is acting out and simply a brat. Her looks are described in detail intimating that she appears but a child in makeup. The idea that a man would marry a 16 yr. old (even to save her), and then fall in love with another “child,” especially one that is being exploited, is offensive to me. Skip this one!
First of all, I’m not 100 percent sure what book this spoiled brat read. The love interest of the protagonist is the woman — his age — with whom he’d broken up 7 years before. There is a very young girl who yes, is acting out and is a brat, involved. BUT for the love of BOB, the protagonist does NOT fall in love with her. As for being exploited, the girl is a flapper and hanging out with bad boys.
My mom and dad started dating at 14 and 17. They married at 18 and 21. The thing is, there’s a picture of them the day they met, and you’d never take them for 14 and 17. At fourteen mom had been working for 3 years, and dad was also working while going to school. Their ages of dating and marriage were still normal in my day. And as for older people marrying younger, no ONE batted an eye at a thirty something year old man wanting to marry a seventeen year old. If you go further back into the regency those were the NORMAL romances. At various times in history, men didn’t marry till they were established, and women were considered mature enough to marry at sixteen.
All of which is beside the point, btw, because the protagonist in this book is 25 and seven years ago he married A DIFFERENT 16 year old to get her out of trouble. So, he was eighteen, and he married a kid who was in trouble (it’s never claimed he was in love with her.) Even in the states, in our day, that’s only considered statutory rape if you are exceptionally insane.
In this book he’s love with the fiance he was broken up from (by the family) seven years ago. She’s also 25. And she’s a widow.
Yeah, he does notice how young the 16 year old in the book looks, even as she’s trying to vamp him. It’s called a man realizing a kid is a kid.
The fact this idiot gave a review without finishing the book, and having misunderstood the little she read is astounding, too. I know why they do it to me and other authors they disapprove of. But Wentworth is beyond their wrath. So doing it CAN ONLY be because they can’t wait to preen on how much more enlightened they are and dance on the graves of their far better predecessors.
And then the vacuous child leaving the review has the nerve to put in something about PW sometimes being politically incorrect. Bubble brain apparently thinks that political correctness (something Mao dreamed up to OBSCURE truth and make you believe what he said and not your lying eyes) is a good thing. Because she wouldn’t want any truths to jog her out of her perpetual now and the conviction that the prejudices of her time, and the patterns of her tribe are a law of nature.
Patricia Wentworth died in the sixties, about the time I was born. She wrote, of course, about the times of her youth.
The people leaving comments (there are other books with this sort of review) about how her female characters aren’t very smart or good, do not understand how a woman operating within a traditional society is smart and good. It has little to do with the pseudo-male posturing of today’s feminists, little to do with kicking men’s asses (as if that happens often, in the physical sense) and more to do with influencing things, and doing things quietly behind the scenes and sometimes showing extraordinary courage despite incredible fear, like, going down a passage in the dark to rescue a man who might be dead, even though you’ve never done anything so unsafe before.
Not good enough for the children of the perpetual now. This woman who was, objectively, my grandmother’s generation might as well have lived in another planet, and her books might as well feature a completely different species.
It would be okay if these idiots realized their lack. The upper classes have always been insular and full of their own self importance, proselytizing the “one true way” of doing things.
However, these lackwit ninnies think they are cosmopolite and multi-culti. They will lecture the rest of us, who have at least some inkling of history and reality, on “accepting the other.” All the while they dance on the eternal meadow strewing flowers and looking down their pampered little noses on their far more competent grandmothers.
Hola, you pampered jades of Asia. Some of us live in the real world and know what struggle is. Some of us are getting tired of your cr*p. Every time you tamp down on our speech, you’re just tightening the bung on the powder barrel.
UPDATE: Okay, I was wrong. He does marry the “kid” at the end. She’s 18, not 16. He’s 25. I’ve seen bigger differences. I do feel it was a misstep. As in, I don’t think that’s where she was going to begin with, even if the character is an incorrigible white knight. BUT there is also nothing seditious or evil about it. As I said, I’ve seen bigger differences.