Mark and Dorothy had two sons, Charles and John, who grew up in a family which entertained people like John Berryman, James Thurber, Joseph Wood Krutch, Franklin P. Adams, Jacques Barzun, Thomas Merton, Lionel Trilling, Rex Stout. These names, some not so familiar now, were big names in American culture in the 1950s. We learn this information from David Halberstam's The Fifites (1993). Halberstam also mentions the Van Doren family cat was named "Walter" Walter was named after Thurber's "Walter Mitty," a story about the space imagination can occupy in the mind.
Mark won a Pulitzer in 1940, the poetry prize, for Collected Poems 1922–1938. He wrote many books, including A Liberal Education (1943). Carl Van Doren, had won a Pulitzer the year before, 1939, for his biography, Benjamin Franklin.
There is a straight forward quality about the prose of the Van Dorens. They both shared the English obliviousness to the possibility of philosophical complexity. They lived at a time when celebrity culture was a new phenomenon, and they were part of the collision between this culture and a common respect for intellectual effort. It was on November 2, 1959 that Charles Van Doren, son and nephew, admitted to a congressional committee that his answers on the quiz show, Twenty-One, had been supplied to him before the show went on the air each week. Let him who is aghast study their own reaction.