You’re in a coffee shop with friends (or bar, or restaurant, dinner party, whichever appeals to you most). At some point one of your friends begins talking about a classic book they thought absolutely superb, one maybe that had a big impact on them when they read it years ago. Being a book enthusiast you’ve heard of it of course. But you’ve never read it. Or you can’t remember reading it but feel surely you did because it’s such a classic?
Do you admit you never read it — and put up with the looks of astonishment that result?
Do you find a way to get out of the conversation, maybe even making a quick exit mumbling something about finding the loo/rest room?
Or do you assume your most interested look, dig deep into your head for anything you know about this book so you can at least make a contribution that gives an impression you’ve read it. Maybe you comment on how a minor modification in the punctuation of the opening of Moby Dick gives it a completely different meaning. Maybe you talk about reactions to the film adaptation and how it wasn’t faithful to the original. Anything really that gets you out of a detailed discussion on particular episodes, plot devices or characters.
Ever since reading Andy Miller’s Year of Reading Dangerously (see review here ) and his admission he had pretended sometimes to have read a particular book, I’ve been wondering if I’ve ever been in that situation. And if so, how I reacted.
I know I did once in college when keeping up with the reading list proved too much and I couldn’t finish the assigned novel, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, in time (I never did finish it.) It made the subsequent tutorial so much of an ordeal I made sure it was never repeated.
Other than that, the only times I can recall are where a friend/member of a family has bought me a book they loved and then asked me for my reactions. Rather than offend them, I’ve skirted around the issue — commenting on the cover or the title for example, or how the author now has a new book out. Anything to stave off an admission a) I haven’t read said book because it absolutely doesn’t interest me or b) I couldn’t finish it because it was so poorly written. It’s hard work though so I think in future I shall simply be honest though of course, tactful.
So that’s my confession. Now how about yours? Have you ever had to pretend you’ve read something when you hadn’t? Why did you feel you had to fake it and how did you do that? I’ve mentioned two situations when faking it might be understandable — forgiveable even — but are there other extenuating circumstances you’ve experienced.