Sunday, December 30, 2007

How To Talk about Books You Haven't Read (copy)

This past fall, I was walking with my girlfriends when one asked if I was a fast reader. My answer was not really; although, I am much faster due to library school. In some courses, students are required to read 25 books, give weekly book talks, and write essays on each book. One is forced to speed up in order to keep up with the course work.

Then my friend continued her line of questioning. Do I read the whole book I’m writing about? Well, I never thought that would be a question. I admitted to not always finishing books before deadline, but that was a technicality. Yes, I do read the whole book, not scan the material.

For the book talks I write it isn’t necessary to complete the book. What person in their right mind would tell the ending anyway? It happens though. I was truly enjoying a review in the Commercial Appeal when the reviewer wrapped up her review with the ending. Well, what good is the book now! It is like a movie trailer which uses all the best parts of the movie and then gives an ending shot. I’ve heard of “dummying down” but to give the whole storyline—whether book or movie—is going too far.

Now this girlfriend has me thinking. Do I really need to spend my time reading all these books? Oscar Wilde said, “I never read a book I must review; it prejudices you so.”

Then a copy of How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard was laid on my desk. Now, here is the inspirational guide to my new resolve to not waste time reading.

Author Bayard demonstrates his point through a literary librarian in the parody, The Man without Qualities by Musil. This librarian, known for his exceptional organizational skills, refuses to read any library books in his care. Bayard’s explains:

Reading is first and foremost non-reading. Even in the case of the most passionate lifelong readers, the act of picking up and opening a book masks the countergesture that occurs at the same time: the involuntary act of not picking up and not opening up all the other books in the universe.
Bayard’s book is purely tongue and cheek, but I see a use. I might need to start reassuring those books around the book I choose so feelings aren’t hurt. But wait a minute, books have no feelings. Right, they evoke feelings, but they have none?

I think this is going to be the first resolution I break in 2008. Not only do I need my walking buddies, but I need my book friends, too.

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