A few years ago, I was teaching in China. I had one Western neighbour, and it was hell. Our conversations would go like this:
Me: "What do you like to read?"
Her: "Oh, you know, the classics."
Me: "What do you mean?"
Her: "Like, Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen … the greats. I can't stand modernist stuff. I read Zadie Smith once. Urgh."
First up, something being recent doesn't make it "modernist". Secondly, I was shocked that this English literature graduate dismissed any book that had yet to enter the Western literary canon. To channel the voice of her blessed "greats", this seemed a supreme act of intellectual turpitude.
I detest the kind of people who disown any cultural product that hasn't been rubber-stamped by a bigwig. You know the types. They lecture you on why zombie flicks, Syd Barrett's post-breakdown songs about ice cream and those Goosebumps books for teens are worthless. You should, they think, evolve into a monocle-toting, fine-wine-guzzling, Brahms-humming, Sartre-quoting bore. That's "growing up".
The brilliant thing about having a brain, though, is that we can choose what we find to be uninspiring drivel (for me: Katy Perry's work; Faust Part II), and enriching ( Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and everything Albus Dumbledore said, ever). Maybe it's harder to filter out the useless stuff from the gems in this overstimulated age. But is the best solution to keep repeating how great all that old stuff was? Romeo and Juliet for romance. Frankenstein for horror. Citizen Kane for films.
Shouldn't we get better at deciding for ourselves what we like?
Even if those may be the gentle words of a senile old wizard.