Fads in Fiction

I’ve started reading Bellweather by Connie Willis. It is very funny. The main character is a sociologist who studies Fads and How They Start. In honour of the main character’s main concern, each chapter starts with a description of a famous fad from history in a pseudo-dictionary style. The first chapter begins with the Hula Hoop (march 1958-June 1959). Here’s the entry on coffeehouse fad, which made me laugh, particularly at the end.

coffeehouse (1450-1554) – Middle Eastern fad that originated in Aden, then spread to Mecca and throughout Persia and Turkey. Men sat cross-legged on rugs and sipped thick, black, bitter coffee from tiny cups while listening to poets. The coffeehouses eventually became more popular than mosques and were banned by the religious authorities, who claimed they were frequented by people “of low costume and very little industry.” Spread to London (1652), Paris (1669), Boston (1675), and Seattle (1985).

Seattle, a little late to the party.

Right. Back to reading.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Fads in Fiction

  1. Christine

    Oh, Bellweather is a fun one (my notebook tells me I read it last May).

    I recently reread Willis’s Doomsday Book — have you read that one? Still enjoyed it, but it felt pretty dated to me. The book was written in (I think) the early/mid nineties, and — as in Passages, come to think of it — a lot of plot revolved around people not being able to get ahold of each other, missing telephone messages, not knowing where anybody was, etc.

    It’s funny that she worked out a universe with plausible time-travel, but didn’t anticipate cell phones!

    • Christine

      It’s like reading Heinlein, who didn’t see imagine (a) computers, or (b) women having, you know, regular jobs. One of the troubles with sci-fi is that it gets dated faster than other genres; sometimes real-world technology just moves too quickly and writers can’t catch up.

      Still fun reads, though.

    • Part of my enjoyment of Bellweather comes from the slightly dated feel. There are cell phones but they fade in and out.

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