reading to younger audiences. I'll see the look on their faces that signals incomprehension - not because my text is confusing, but because they seem to have an increasingly narrow range of referents - historical, cultural, literary and scientific. I usually stop to explain, but I'm not willing to dumb down and bleach out my characters to meet my listeners' lack of knowledge. It would be bad enough if this was the only evidence of provincialism - make that a kind of techo-provincialism, but I've worked with a young editor who didn't know who Scheherezade was, and another who said sarcastically, "And what precisely is Green Space."

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