Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Which Classic Are You Ashamed To Admit You Have Never Read?

The British newspaper The Telegraph cornered some famous authors at a literary festival on the other side of the Pond and asked them to confess to a famous book they haven't read.

It is all based on a game called Humiliation:
"You can't just plead that, gosh, though you simply ADORE Perec you blush to admit you only got halfway through La Disparation in the original French. You only score points in the game according to how many other players HAVE read it."

"So in the David Lodge story that popularised this gruesome entertainment, an academic wins the game - but loses his job - by confessing: 'Hamlet'. It was with his downfall in mind that we hit on our idea."

"During this year's Ways With Words festival at Dartington Hall, Devon, we would collar our guests and ask: what's the book you're most ashamed of never having read?"

"Would the eminent Cambridge classicist admit to The Iliad? Would V S Naipaul's old editor cop to A Bend In The River?"

"Or would the former schoolmate of a fellow guest confess - with apparent relish - to never having read a word his old friend has written?"
Earlier Library Boy posts on the matter:
  • Great Books I Have Not Read (April 5, 2005): "A Robert Fulford column in today's National Post caught my eye. It was entitled 'The great unread: Many have bought these books, but has anyone ever finished them?' ... There is a twisted theory that publishing may in fact depend for its survival on printing 'famous' books everyone feels obliged to buy but that no one really ever reads or finishes. Fulford quotes some learned commentators on the subject. Anthony Burgess thinks this is probably a good thing. If you don't read those books, you'll never know how bad most truly are and so you can't feel depressed or angry that you've been duped into shelling out $40 for garbage."
  • Book Snobbery - People Lie About What They Read To Appear Sexy (January 27, 2007): "Earlier this week, Resourceshelf reported on a study by the U.K. Museums, Libraries and Archive Council according to which 'A third of British adults have lied about reading a book to appear more intelligent according to a new survey'. As well: 'One in ten men said they would fib about reading a certain book to impress the opposite sex ...' ."
But never be ashamed about all your bold-faced literary lies, there is a brilliant little book I recommend to all my friends: How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Paris psychoanalyst and university professor Pierre Bayard.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:39 pm

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