Past and Present
The new Locus, the news magazine of science fiction and fantasy, has a piece about how prominent sf writer Elizabeth Bear recently noted that The Greatest Generation (Robert Silverberg etc) doesn't read the Baby Boomers Generation and neither of them read the Generation X Generation. She says "There's a generation gap (in science fiction and fantasy)." Silverberg, my favorite sf writer, responds with his usual eloquence and irony (he also read stories by a few of the writers Bears suggested and liked them).
My sense of Bear's statement is that she seems to think that each generation reads only its its own. (She says that she means no disrespect, that the older writers are fine etc.)
If that's true it doesn't hold for the genres I know pretty well--mystery and crime, horror and westerns. Patti Abbott alone runs a Forgotten Books Friday on her blog where anywhere from six to twelve writers review mystery and suspense writers from decades past.
And some of today's hottest young crime writers including Allan Guthrie, Duane Swierczynski, Dave Zelsterman and Tom Piccirlli spend a good deal of their blogging time discussing writers of the forties, fifties and sixties.
Not understanding the past is all right for readers. Every once in awhile I run into somebody who seems to be under the impression that hardboiled fiction first appeared sometime around 2002.
But not understanding and drawing on the past seems deadly for writers. Fiction of every kind is a continuum. And a marathon. One generation after another handing on the baton.
We are blessed that so many of our writers and readers honor the past as a way of enriching the present.