Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Liar, Liar

Do you lie about books? Do you falsely claim to read Tolstoy when you’ve actually been reading Stephenie Meyer? See what the Telegraph’s Melanie McDonagh has to say about lies readers tell in her article “Why Bluffing About Books is a Civilized Art.”


Jonathan G. Reinhardt said...

No, I don't lie about books I haven't read -- if you're talking fiction. I don't care whether people think I should've read Madame Bovary or War and Peace. I haven't and they sound so boring that I probably won't. Because I read for my own amusement, chiefly.

And I'll be happy to tell them I've read Twilight (mainly to learn why it worked so well for so many readers -- and my conclusions were pretty disillusioning -- but still).

The people I worry about are the ones who say, Oh, right, I've read that! -- no matter what book you mention. They're the ones who are lying.

P.S. The line between "high" and "low" lit are pretty fluid anyway. Ovid was "low" at his time and so was Spencer's Faerie Queen. And now I frequently find myself the only person in my seminars (at a world class uni) whom I believe when they say they've read it.

P.P.S. The area where I sort of gloss over what I've actually read and what I've only read about it lit crit and philosophy. I dare anybody who says they've read Heidegger or Saussure to prove it. And why would you? -- the distilled popular intros are so much better at explaining what those men thought than the thinkers were themselves.

Stephanie said...

I agree with you about the criticism/philosophy. One guy I had classes with at Ole Miss was really up on criticism, not in a showy way, and I asked him once what all he'd read and how he had time. He told me he'd mostly read introductions, that he can get the overview without wading through all the material. It's nice to run into somebody honest about it.