We all want to be "in" with the hip crowd, to understand their allusions and cultural references, but the hip crowd is now so diverse in its likes, understandings, and sets of information that we would spend our entire lives trying to be culturally literate. E.D. Hirsch, Jr., in his book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know ("Includes 5,000 essential names, phrases, dates, and concepts"!), lets us know that "only by accumulating shared symbols, and the shared information that the symbols represent, can we learn to communicate effectively with one another in our national community" (xvii).
While I agree with this sentiment, in that understanding common symbols can foster heightened communication on perhaps deeper levels, Hirsch perhaps did not account for, in his Vintage-Books-1988 edition, the fact that in this age when digital information makes so much available, the ante would be upped—that is, we would be expected to know everything about everyone or anything, and be considered uneducated or uncultured if we hadn't heard about it. As a self-referential example, "upping the ante" is a reference to raising the stakes in a poker game. I am not a poker player, although I did try to learn once, but I have just used an idiom that references an action within the game.
Which is why I would like to introduce the concept of cultural literacies. Choose what you like to learn and don't be too worried if you don't know the latest Olympic winners, if you're not a sportsy person, and don't worry about the latest New York Times bestsellers if you don't like reading. Find the type of cultural literacy that you like, and go for it. If you like knowing a smattering of everything, go for it. But don't learn for the sake of being able to say, "Oh, you haven't heard of [x]?!" Be culturally literate because you want to learn things, not because you're afraid you'll be left out.
In this vein, then, do I start learning about what's been done with experimental writing. Even though I don't yet consider myself "culturally literate" in this field, I really, really like it. I'll be writing about things that I've learned, and I'm not going to worry about professional experimental lit people coming to my website and saying, "She didn't know that? Pfft. Amateur." If I continue to learn, I won't be an amateur—but even so, I should never fear that appellation from "the initiated."
On my reading list: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne, Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf, and The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature, edited by Joe Bray, Alison Gibbons, and Brian McHale. Any other suggestions?