I enjoy reading books you have to be “in the know” to understand. (Unless I’m not “in the know,” in that case, come down out of your ivory tower) Like when we read The Great Gatsby in high school. Our teacher spent the first day explaining the cultural setting, and subsequent days interjecting explanations of symbolism (daisies are corrupt on the inside, but appear pure on the outside)
F. Scott Fitzgerald LOVED his symbolism.
From ‘Hark! A Vagrant’ by Kate Beaton
Cultural markers, symbolism, allusions, all those literary secrets can make for a richer reading experience. When prepared to notice and understand them, the fog clears from the world the author has created, and we see it more clearly. But sometimes they also send us looking for meaning that’s not there.
I got to thinking about this while reading two books that make historical timelines and cultural trends a significant part of the work– “The Woman Upstairs” by Claire Messud, and “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell. The references to current events in “The Woman Upstairs” were kind of jarring and seemingly unnecessary. On the other hand, while readers unfamiliar with fandoms and slash fanfiction will find much of “Fangirl” incomprehensible, that it draws so heavily from these subcultures is what gives the book life.
just think about y’all millions and millions of little dark skinned black girls are going to go to the supermarket with their parents this month and when they’re waiting in line at the check out aisle they’re going to look up and see Lupita Nyong’o being hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world god is amazing