The runaway French bestseller hailed by the New York Times as a survivors guide to life in the chattering classes.
If civilized people are expected to have read all important works of literature, and thousands more books are published every year, what are we supposed to do in those awkward social situations in which were forced to talk about books we havent read? In this delightfully witty, provocative book, a huge hit in France that has drawn attention from critics around the world, literature professor and psychoanalyst Pierre Bayard argues that its actually more important to know a books role in our collective library than its details. Using examples from such writers as Graham Greene, Oscar Wilde, Montaigne, and Umberto Eco, and even the movie Groundhog Day, he describes the many varieties of non-reading and the horribly sticky social situations that might confront us, and then offers his advice on what to do. Practical, funny, and thought-provoking, How to Talk About Books You Havent Read is in the end a love letter to books, offering a whole new perspective on how we read and absorb them. Its the book that readers everywhere will be talking aboutand despite themselves, readingthis holiday season.
Ways of Reading: Books You Don't Know
(in which the reader will see, as demonstrated by a character of Musil's, that reading any particular book is a waste of time compared to keeping our perspective about books overall)
There is more than one way not to read, the most radical of which is not to
open a book at all. For any given reader, however dedicated he might be, such
total abstention necessarily holds true for virtually everything that has been
published, and thus in fact this constitutes our primary way of relating to
books. We must not forget that even a prodigious reader never has access to more
than an infinitesimal fraction of the books that exist. As a result, unless he
abstains definitively from all conversation and all writing, he will find
himself forever obliged to express his thoughts on books he hasn't read.
If we take this attitude to the extreme, we arrive at the case of the absolute non-reader, who never opens a book and yet knows them and ...
By all rights, I shouldn’t have to read this book. After all, Pierre Bayard begins with an epigraph from Oscar Wilde: "I never read a book I must review; it prejudices you so." But I did read it, swiftly, ferociously, and with a pen in hand. Many times I underlined a sentence I admired, such as this one: "He who pokes his nose into a book is abandoning true cultivation, and perhaps even reading itself." But just as often, I underlined in fierce disagreement. This book isn’t, finally, about books, but about book conversation, and I had a particularly lively one with it.
(Reviewed by Amy Reading).
Full Review (646 words).
Pierre Bayard was born in 1954. He is a professor of literature
at the University of Paris VIII, as well a practicing psychoanalyst. He has
written over a dozen books, most of which have not been translated into English.
Bayard's best-known work in English prior to How to Talk about Books You Haven't Read is a work of literary detection entitled Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?, published in 2000. In this book, Bayard dares to suggest that Hercule Poirot's solution to one of Agatha Christie's best-loved mysteries, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is incorrect and that Christie has deliberately deceived the casual reader. On his way to fingering the real murderer, Bayard conducts a sustained investigation into the nature of detective...
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