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Praise for How to Talk About Books You Havent Read:
 
"I probably shouldn't bring any of this up, but Mr. Bayard holds that one of the best reasons for reading a book is that it allows you to talk about yourself. How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read is an amusing disquisition on what is required to establish cultural literacy in a comfortable way. Lightly laced with irony, the book nonetheless raises such serious questions as: What are our true motives for reading? Is there an objective way to read a book? What do we retain from the books we've read?"--Joseph Epstein, Wall Street Journal
 
“Witty and charming and often fun.”—Sam Anderson, New York Magazine
 
"I read and adored Pierre Bayard’s book. It's funny, smart, and so true—a wonderful combination of slick French philosophizing and tongue-in-cheek wit, and an honest appraisal of what it means, or doesn't mean, to read."--Clare Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children

“It may well be that too many books are published, but by good fortune, not all must be read…A survivor’s guide to life in the chattering classes…evidently much in need.”—New York Times

"In this work of inspired nonsense -- which nevertheless evokes our very real sense of insecurity about the gaps in our cultural knowledge -- reading is not only superfluous, it is meaningless. Our need to appear well-read is all."--Sarah Gold, Chicago Tribune

“In this hilarious and elaborate spoof, Bayard proves once again that being almost ridiculously erudite and screamingly funny are by no means mutually exclusive." —Booklist
 
“Brilliant…A witty and useful piece of literary sociology, designed to bring lasting peace of mind to the scrupulous souls who grow anxious whenever the book-talk around them becomes too specific.”—London Review of Books
 
“With rare humor, Bayard liberally rethinks the social use [of literature] and the position of the reader…Read or skim How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. Or simply listen to what people say about it so that you can talk about it with ease. In either case, you may not be able to forget it.”—Les Inrockuptibles

Contents:

Preface --
Ways of not reading. Books you don't know (in which the reader will see, as demonstrated by a character of Musil's, that reading any particular book is a waste of time compared to keeping our perspective about books overall) --
Books you have skimmed (in which we see, along with Valéry, that it is enough to have skimmed a book to be able to write an article about it, and that with certain books it might even be inappropriate to do otherwise) --
Books you have heard of (in which Umberto Eco shows that it is wholly unnecessary to have held a book in your hand to be able to speak about it in detail, as long as you listen to and read what others say about it) --
Books you have forgotten (in which, along with Montaigne, we raise the question of whether a book you have read and completely forgotten, and which you have even forgotten you have read, is still a book you have read) --
Literary confrontations. Encounters in society (in which Graham Greene describes a nightmarish situation where the hero finds himself facing an auditorium full of admirers impatiently waiting for him to speak about books that he hasn't read) --
Encounters with professors (in which we confirm, along with the Tiv tribe of western Africa, that it is wholly unnecessary to have opened a book in order to deliver an enlightened opinion on it, even if you displease the specialists in the process) --
Encounters with the writer (in which Pierre Siniac demonstrates that it may be important to watch what you say in the presence of a writer, especially when he himself hasn't read the book whose author he is) --
Encounters with someone you love (in which we see, along with Bill Murray and his groundhog, that the ideal way to seduce someone by speaking about books he or she loves without having read them yourself would be to bring time to a halt) --
Ways of behaving. Not being ashamed (in which it is confirmed, with regard to the novels of David Lodge, that the first condition for speaking about a book you haven't read is not to be ashamed) --
Imposing your ideas (in which Balzac proves that one key to imposing your point of view on a book is to remember that the book is not a fixed object, and that even tying it up with string will not be sufficient to stop its motion) --
Inventing books (in which, reading Sōseki, we follow the advice of a cat and an artist in gold-rimmed spectacles, who each, in different fields of activity, proclaim the necessity of invention) --
Speaking about yourself (in which we conclude, along with Oscar Wilde, that the appropriate time span for reading a book is ten minutes, after which you risk forgetting that the encounter is primarily a pretext for writing your autobiography) --
Epilogue.
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Details

ISBN-10:  1596914696
ISBN-13:  978-1596914698
Author:  Pierre Bayard
Genre:  Literary Theory
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA
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review by . October 24, 2008
Translated from the French by Jeffrey Mehlman    Writing a review of this book after reading it is somewhat problematic for several reasons. I selected it based on the idiosyncratic and seemingly tongue-in-cheek title, because of a propensity I have been accused of indulging in the past, particularly related to movies I haven't seen.    Turns out, Bayard is quite serious, and maybe quite right. Selecting a particular book to read entails, especially in today's …
review by . September 12, 2010
   This book, which I read in its entirety, is about 25% sensible commentary wrapped in an irritating froth of supercilious b---s---. Professor Bayard has a number of observations to make about the whole exercise of reading, some of which are insightful and on point and many of which are bloody obvious. The irritating part is that each little nugget is presented with the kind of self-congratulatory smugness befitting a Faberge egg. But, for the most part, the professor doesn't scintillate …
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