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.
Day 1 of a new month – and a new year. It’s time to take a snapshot of what I’m reading, listening to and watching.
I have about 90 pages left of Washington Square by Henry James. This is my spin book for the classics club and also counts as book number one from my list for the 2015 TBR challenge. Initially I wasn’t very engaged by this story of a sweet but plain and dull daughter and her brilliant but emotionally-distant doctor father. It’s now become significantly more interesting as the pair clash over a suitor that Catherine loves but her father considers a ‘selfish idler’ only interested in the girl because she is a wealthy heiress.
I’ll finish this today and can then turn more of my attention to the book chosen as my first read of 2015 In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahmen. I started reading this yesterday and if it continues in the same way I think this is going to be an enjoyable book.
I gave up on my last audio book Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir. I didn’t like the style – there were far too many times Weir used expressions like “Elizabeth must have known ….” or “Elizabeth would have felt….” I don’t expect to find this kind of conceit in a historical biography. I’ve switched to The Year of Living Dangerously : How Fifty Great Books Saved my Life by Andy Miller. This is a non-fictional account of how a Londoner began thinking re-kindled his love of reading, starting with books that he’d always meant to read but never got around to, and those other people couldn’t believe he hadn’t already read. A few chapters in he reveals he studied literature at university and works at publishing company evaluating submitted scripts from would be authors so it’s decidedly odd to find that he’s never read Middlemarch or Anna Karenina. Still I’m enjoying his irreverent tone, as he comments on some of the novels he read while on the 6.44am train to work in London and while in the queue at the post office. There’s a good interview with him at The Dabbler if you’re interested.
The DVDs that we were given as Christmas presents have proved a mixed bag. The Quartet had oodles of famous faces but not even Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Tom Courtney could rescue a very thin plot. The Dallas Buyers Club was good as was Flight with Denzil Washington. But 12 Years a Slave which we watched on New Year’s Eve was tedious. Far too many shots where the lead actor looks into the distance and we were meant to understand what was going on in his head. We now have a boxed set of The Wire to look forward to watching.