In a recent Washington Post article about John McPhee’s new book*, writer Michael Dirda recounts a talk that McPhee gave to his granddaughter’s senior-high English class.
McPhee read a list of things mentioned in one of his articles and asked the teens to raise their hands whenever they recognized something.
The entire class knew “Woody Allen.” Only five students knew who Norman Rockwell and Truman Capote were. None of them knew recognized Sophia Loren, Bob Woodward or Samuel Johnson.
The idea was not to embarrass the youths, but rather “to emphasize the brief shelf life of cultural references,” Dirda writes.