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Saturday, May 3, 2008

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read

This book, by Pierre Bayard, is perfectly provocative. By that I mean it really offers a push to reconsider how we rely on received ideas, and also how using received ideas is, in fact, useful. His thesis is simple: knowing how books are perceived within the culture is arguably more important than actually reading them. Bayard further suggests that many educators and pundits have not and do not read thoroughly everything upon which they expound.

One thing I found lacking is discussion of alternative ways of "not reading". I cannot skim. I don't allow myself to look at newspapers, especially week-end editions, because that would be the day gone. I find myself reading the business pages and the ads and so on. I am a bit compulsive. Therefore, my method of knowing a book, without reading it completely, is reading it very closely, but only partly. The rest I extrapolate, and/or fill in with my cultural knowledge of the book and/or any hearsay evidence I come across, including reviews and conversations with other readers. I am so tempted to add Bayard's categories to my LibraryThing tags, only using PB for "partly-read books" rather than SB for "skimmed books". (Therefore my tag could/would be: PB/HB - book I have partly read/book I have heard about.) A further note could also be why the book was abandoned: got the drift already? too boring? too repetitive? unpleasantly written? not enjoyable? too difficult? too easy? too formulaic? Actually, I see that this would require further thought to make it meaningful. Actually I see that perhaps instead of PB - book I have partly read, I should say AB - book I have abandoned! Or maybe I need both categories. Are there other ways of "not reading"? Will anyone tell me theirs?

Funnily enough, How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read is a book that can be understood and appreciated through reviews alone (HB - book I have heard about)! His key ideas are much expanded in the actual book, but much presented in reviews such as this one. The link I have provided is, in fact, for a review meta-site (through Literary Saloon - also provided separately).

The marigold asks nervously:
How do I encapsulate in a tag that I have stopped reading a book that I like because I learned enough before finishing?

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