Cultural Reality. Or Something.

Chestnut wanted me to read this, because she loved it:


So I did. And here's the thing: all the cultural references are to my generation.

Now I know no one who is 13 is writing a YA book (or at least, they're not publishing what they write), so the author is no doubt being true to her own cultural reality. I mean,  Matt Dillon clearly resonates for her. And her introduction describes the book as a record of what happened in her own teens so: OK. Acknowledged.

But—it happens a lot. It actually drives me a lot crazier when the author makes up some weak justification for it. You know, "I stole my mom's tapes and listened to Jethro Tull all the way home and it turns out it's really awesome…." Or whatever. OK, it's not usually Jethro Tull, but you know what I'm getting at.

The weird thing is, I try to remember what books I read as a kid talked about in terms of music, movie stars, etc, and I can't remember. No one was talking about Matt Dillon—how could they? He was a freshman at a nearby high school (how cool!) and it would have seemed weird and creepy. But not much creepier than Guardians of the Galaxy presenting songs from the 1970s as universally beloved.

It gets me confused in terms of time and reality and whose culture is whose. 

Am I overthinking this? I do that a lot. Help?

3 thoughts on “Cultural Reality. Or Something.

  1. You’re such a relief in this crazy world — honestly, I’d much rather muse about your question than dutifully go over and listen to Obama’s strategy for dealing with the crazies in other parts of the world. So…
    You’re right! I can’t think of the books I read as a teen and the cultural references within them. If the pattern holds, that would mean there would be references to Frank Sinatra or something, right. The stuff that MY parents listened to? Hmmm.


  2. What a nice thing to say! I am glad to be considered less crazy than talking about ISIS.
    The most I could come up with in thinking about books that refer to cultural figures when I was growing up, was the idea of Marilyn Monroe. But that’s pretty much it.


  3. Full disclosure in writing this comment. I was born in 1971. What I remember about cultural references during my childhood was that when MTV came out, suddenly everybody was talking about bands you liked and what videos you’d seen as a shorthand for self definition. And the entire phenomenon of kid lit didn’t exist in the same way it does now. I feel like books were largely stripped of cultural references. Nancy Drew was impossible date… Maybe it’s just that the generation writing now can’t let go of this practice we developed with the introduction of a universal culture via cable TV?
    One kind of cultural reference I do remember reading and not sure where was references to movie stars in the 50s. Someone was always being described as looking like Tyrone power. I think I know what that means but as a kid reader I definitely had no clue.


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