Does it Stand the Test of Time?


It was our kitchen that got me thinking. Twenty years ago we decided we were staying in our smallish house that we loved and we embarked on a massive renovation. The biggest project was a new kitchen: we knocked down walls to create a bigger, open concept; we installed new windows, floors, cabinets, appliances, and countertop.

Now, against any standard of trends and current taste, our kitchen is dated. The cabinets are the wrong color, the countertop the wrong material, the appliances on their last legs (or already replaced).

Is there no such thing as a kitchen that stands the test of time? The answer is an emphatic NO, if you’re a devotee of HGTV.

It’s not the same with novels and movies. Sure, many are dated. Almost anyone will cringe watching American Beauty now, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1999, and features Kevin Spacey as a suburban husband and father who’s obsessed with his daughter’s cheerleader friend and ends up murdered by the closeted gay neighbor. Gone with the Wind (novel and movie)—happy slaves laughing and singing while toiling in the fields. The moral certainty of the selfish, one-dimensional characters of Ayn Rand’s books have not aged well (Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead).

I wonder if my first novel is dated. Stash featured a protagonist who gets arrested for possessing marijuana, which sets off a cascade of dramatic events for multiple characters. Stash was published in 2010. It’s 2024 now, and weed is legal in New York State.

Other novels and movies are considered timeless. Tell me The Godfather, made more than 50 years ago is dated. Or Casablanca—more than 80 years ago. What about novels? The Great Gatsby—which was published in 1923 years ago—is still a brisk selling novel and often included in high school curriculums. I still find The Catcher in the Rye painfully relevant.

Why is one work of art dated and another timeless? Because sensibilities and values evolve, fashion changes, and pop cultural references don’t resonate for long—these shifts can make a work of art feel old and dusty. What then makes a work stand the test of time? It’s universal themes such as love, loss, identity, and moral dilemmas. It’s complex, rich, multidimensional characters. It’s excellence in craftsmanship and artistry. (Maybe Stash isn’t dated!)

I guess I got off the point. I started this post writing about our kitchen. I believe a kitchen can also be timeless if it is well-designed for its purpose—to convene and cook. Ours does exactly that. If it offers appropriate storage—we’ve got plenty of cabinets and counter space. If everything still works as it should—okay, we’ve got a few squirrely cabinets and our cooktop is ornery. Are we going to redo the kitchen again? I don’t want to, but someone else might, and we’ll end up working out some kind of deal.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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