Saturday, February 24, 2007


I'm teaching literature this term, and I sure hope that my students don't read (or skim) this article. Otherwise, I'm screwed.

Apparently, a Paris literature professor has written a book entitled How to Talk About a Book You Haven't Read? Pierre Bayard, the author, humorously dismisses the stigma surrounding not reading a book and then offers tips for how to navigate the subject. He suggests such techniques as using knowledge about the public opinion of the book, gossip about the author, knowledge about the genre, and using anecdotes from your own life to talk about the book without talking about it. You can also change the subject, of course.

As a literature teacher, these are all techniques I have used. Without fail, when I start literature class each term, a student (or five) will try to suck up by mentioning all the books they like. Sometimes I've read them, sometimes I haven't. If I'm honest and say that I haven't read said seminal book by random obscure author, they express shock and disappointment that a lit instructor hasn't read this greatest book of all time. Or I can let them talk about it, and then I pick up on the verbal cues and discuss. I know I'm going to hell, but it makes life a lot easier.

Maybe I should have written this book. But then, I'd be "out" and that would open up a new can of worms.

1 Comment:

Poet with a Day Job said...

Hey, I'm not so sure it's a bad thing. If more people had common sense and social skills (as is needed to talk abotu things one knows nothing about), we'd all be better off in many circumstances. I just wish it didn't have to come at the expense, or to the exclusion of reading. Reads AND has social skills would, of course, be ideal.

And certainly you need not worry about someone who does not read reading an article telling them how to talk about something they haven't read. For, they do not read!