How many pages until we can wing it?


In 2007 Pierre Bayard published a short book: How to Talk About Books You Havenít Read. The title hints that this is going to be a useful book for all of those situations when we find ourselves surrounded by people who seem to know much more than we do. And it's a good guess that just about everyone has found him or herself in such a situation numerous times. The book is no doubt at least partially tongue-in-cheek, but even as he flashes a knowing wink that suggests that he's presenting us with a self-help book, Bayard, a French professor of literature, has some important points to make. Clearly, there's always been too much to read, much more than anyone will ever have time for. And at least in some social milieux we're expected to be familiar with more than we really are, or can be.

In the book's first section, "Ways of Not Reading", Bayard makes this very clear:
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.
And since according to Bayard even not having opened a book is no reason not to be able to discuss it, I suppose that simply reading the email announcement that goes out monthly to my "readers" can more or less legitimately be considered a way of reading the Boidem.



Go to: How to read a Boidem column.