Me: That music playing sounds just like something out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Barista (about 35-40-yr-old woman): What is that?
Me: It’s a movie with Audrey Hepburn. You’ve never seen it?
Barista: Audrey who? I never watch old stuff.
Me: Hepburn. A famous actress… The movie is a classic. Don’t you ever watch old black-and-white movies?
Barista, looking at me as if I’ve grown horns: No….did you want something?
This encounter made me rethink something I’ve been working around lately in my WIP. How do you put cultural references in your book without losing your reader? What’s acceptable, what’s a big no-no? I would have thought references to old movies or Hollywood legends would be OK, but present-day movies would be verboten. Now, I’m thinking even old movies may be a bad idea. Or perhaps this woman needs to come out from under her coffee rock once in a while. Even if she’s never seen it, how could she get away with never even hearing about it?
With regard to cultural references in your work…on the one hand, you date your material. This can be a bad thing. Books should be timeless, transport the reader to another world, be forever available.
On the other hand, references to movies, movie stars, etc. can be a great way to make a point. Or is it just a lazy way to make a point? Perhaps working around this restriction is an important exercise in stretching my writing muscles. Or perhaps that woman was just an idiot.