You know, the good old days when I could safely sneer at people who hadn’t read the Officially Approved Books of my social cohort:
I lived through a time when it was great to read. There were so many books that you just had to read, which would have been read by everyone you knew. Not merely read, though, but digested and discussed. We formed not merely our opinions but ourselves on them. There was a common culture — or, more accurately, a common counter-culture — which included music, art and film. If there was some faddishness in this, and a concomitant homogenisation of taste, there was the palpable upside of having plenty of people with whom to share one’s enthusiasms. . . .Of course I realise that what we read in Ivy League colleges and at Oxford was not representative of the general population. But the point still stands: within our middle-class, educated world there was a canon, which wasn’t limited to Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Scott Fitzgerald. You could assume people had read the hot contemporary books; when they hadn’t, it occasioned not merely puzzlement, but disapproval.