John Schwabacher's Reviews > How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard
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Oct 04, 11

Read from September 28 to October 04, 2011

It was kind of a surprise to find that this book is actually fairly serious. Bayard argues that it is simplistic to say you've "read" or "haven't read" a given book. More important is whether you can place the book in relation to literature as a whole. He posits a whole range of "books", including "screen books", phantom books", and "inner books". These distinctions have to do with one's experiences of books individually and relative to others's conceptions of the same "actual" book.
Each chapter has a theme that he illustrates with a book (or once, the movie Groundhog Day(!)) that deals with the theme. He doesn't appear to think it very important that the books he uses as examples are usually satires of the attitudes they espouse: Balzac's character deals with cynical publishers and know-it-alls who convince him that the quality of a book depends on how famous the writer is and the cleverness of the arguments for and against it.
Fairly short, amusing, and clever, so I certainly don't think it was a waste of my time.
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Edward You're right - "surprisingly" serious. Are his examples mostly "satirical"? - I'll have to read it again, or at least "talk" about it again!


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