There's that old quote from Socrates, or the ancient Babylonians, or some person/group of people in the distant past, to the effect of "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I quote:
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.
I was reminded of this time-worn truism - that things are now the way they always have been - when reading a 1953 novel by Nedra Tyre, Journey to Nowhere. Those of us who enjoy the traditional/Golden Age mysteries, and who can get cantankerous about the mysteries being published today, are sometimes critical of trends that we see as silly, or boring, or contrived.
Looks like readers and writers 60 years ago liked to criticize the genre, too:
Meg had liked murder stories, used not to be bale to get her fill of them, but no more. No sir. She'd taken to the radio. Saved her eyes, she said, and besides the murder stories weren't murder stories any more and not worth the quarter they cost. She had it that a murder ought to take place by page twenty; if it didn't the story wasn't any good. The second murder ought to occur by page seventy-five or ninety, at the latest; a two-hundred page book ought to have at least three murders; and used to they would, but look at them now, half the time you waited till the book was almost over and all you got was one murder; instead of murder you got information that you didn't want anyway about the theater or ballet or paininting or book collecting or jewelry or antique furniture or travel, which if she'd wanted to know anything about them she'd have got a book about them in the first place. Strangest thing of all, she couldn't stand a murder story that had any sex in it.
I found myself quite tickled by this passage. Is Nedra Tyre taking a swipe at the type of career-centric mysteries that became all the rage in the 80s and 90s, long after she wrote? (I certainly don't think of the 1950s as the golden age of the career-based mystery... maybe I'm wrong.) Is she criticizing the reader who demands formula? Maybe a little of both?
I love this type of self-referential passage when I find a good one. Some would argue that such passages take the reader out of the story, but I like authorial presence on the page.
In reading this particular book - which I found at a yard sale - I thought back to a post of mine from a few weeks ago, where I asked whether "style" has a place in genre fiction. Because I must tell you, Nedra Tyre simply loved her semicolons. The book has passages with literally five semicolons connecting five independent clauses in one sentence. I asked myself if these were excessive; couldn't the sentence have been broken into five simple sentences? Yes, perhaps; but something would have been lost. Still, I can't imagine editing any manuscript today and allowing five semicolons in one sentence.