I'm reading a James MacDonald novel from 1978 -- THE EMPTY COPPER SEA -- and it's leaving me with the distinct impression that much less has changed in American culture in the last 30 years than in the 30 years preceding them.
In this private-eye novel (actually, Travis McGee is not a private eye -- he's a salvage expert -- but he performs the functions of a PI), there are shopping malls and crystal meth addicts. Kids line up to see STAR WARS (the original, but who could imagine that 30 years later STAR WARS would still be a marketable commodity). The language is contemporary. The clothing brands and even the sporting goods makes are recognizable. The description of life in a Florida coastal town, the rondole of seafood houses and cheesy bars, is readily recognizable.
By comparison, a novel from 1948 would not sound at all contemporary in 1978 (and certainly not in 2009). The slang, cars, clothes, and description of everyday life would seem foreign.
Has time flattened out? Or just the time that has passed in my own lifetime?