Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Hated It! No, I Haven't READ it, but ...

I'm sometimes asked to mention or discuss books I haven't read and wonder whether I have the right to talk about them. Help me out. Read this quote from Jeffrey T. Iversen's Time magazine's February 8, 2007 article, Don't Read All About It:
So you haven’t read all the pages of James Joyce’s Ulysses? Actually, you haven’t read any of it, have you? No big deal, says Pierre Bayard, author of French bestseller How Do You Talk About Books You Haven’t Read?; neither has he. And that doesn’t stop him from sharing his “very positive” opinion about it. Bayard, a psychoanalyst and university professor, wants to reassure students and bibliophobes that just knowing about a book as opposed to having read it is no reason for shame. “Even the most cultivated among us have enormous gaps in their knowledge,” Bayard says. “Many great intellectuals—Paul Valery, Montaigne, Oscar Wilde—often spoke about books they hadn’t read, and didn’t feel guilty about it.”… Bayard argues that the real secret to knowledge, cultivation and passionate reading lies in avoiding the traditional, linear approach to books. “Books aren’t so much made to be read as they are to be lived with,” he says.
Do you discuss, recommend, ding, or write about books you haven't read (qualifying your comments, of course, by admitting your non-reader status)? Vote in the sidebar, please, and if you can't see it, widen your window -- good advice for life, too.


Jennifer said...

Well, I discuss and opine on everything quite readily, but, yes I always qualify my opinions with, "I haven't read it, but. . . . " However, I have found that it can be dangerous to do so. Words are important, and when someone hears my thoughts on something, it could color their thoughts on it, even if I do not have first hand experience with it and speak from ignorance (even if I admit to my ignorance).

Case in point: Harry Potter. Within the Christian Mom community there's sort of an ongoing conversation about "do they, or don't they" allow HP. Before I read it, I jumped into this conversation, rightly stating that the books made me nervous, because witchcraft is real and has become glamorized and is something that a Christian should avoid.

Then I actually read the books. J.K. Rowling is not glamorizing or teaching witchcraft. These books are fantastical stories, no more harmful in that respect than the Wizard of Oz.

eisha said...

I haven't done it on my blog... but I do it all the time at the library where I work. It's like an osmosis thing, people say "I'm looking for something to read" and I say "What do you like?" and they say, "Stephen King," and I say, "Have you read Dean Koontz? You'll like him too." Have I read Dean Koontz? Nope. But I see people checking out books from a group of authors over and over, and I just kind of figure they must go together. If asked directly, I'll totally admit that I've never read Dean Koontz. But I'm usually not.

Yikes, am I evil?

EM said...

I'm the Unofficial Staff Recommends Cart Filler at my library, and heck yeah, I throw books on there that I haven't personally read, but that have been well-reviewed and/or recommended by others. Otherwise I'd just keep plucking the same 25 books every week, and nobody wants that.

a. fortis said...

That's an interesting question! I might discuss a book I haven't read (admitting readily to that, of course) but I would refrain from casting a value judgment on it. I might relate information I've heard about it, especially if it's from a reliable source, noting of course "I read in such-and-such article that...", etc. Or I might make an observation that doesn't depend as much on reading, such as "Oh, Ulysses? Yes, it's very LONG." However, as eisha pointed out above, I wouldn't review a book I hadn't read. I might mention it if there's buzz, though.

Mitali Perkins said...

Eisha, not evil at all. The truth shall set you free. All good comments; I'll sum up shortly on a post this week.

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