I went to dinner this evening with some colleagues in Dublin, and was reminded once again just how wonderful it is to hang out with the Irish.
Whatever the topic — Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, Austen, Shakespeare or Beckett — we could all speak freely, quote lines from particular works, compare one author to the other, and know that everybody would know exactly what was being talked about.
I’m not sure there is any other culture in the English speaking world where I could just relax into that basic assumption that “yes, we’ve all read the great authors, we remember them, and we’ve thought about their ideas quite a bit”. This is something you can just take for granted in Ireland — without any of it being a big deal.
I love America. I love its energy, its boldness, and its continual sense of possibility. But for whatever reason, many American friends and colleagues whom I admire just don’t seem to know any of this stuff.
Maybe the downside of a culture of bold reinvention is a relative lack of interest in what has come before.