From the moment I saw the title of the book, How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard, I became implicated by the title. Not only for my past, but in an immediately predicting sense of what was about to take place. While not even owning the book, with just the mere viewing of the title on the course syllabus, I quickly became a proliferator of Pierre’s work. Empowered by title alone, or at least what it meant to me, my soul was liberated to begin sharing with others this fantastic book on the course syllabus for my doctoral program. Over the course of three weeks, I enthusiastically became an advocate of this literary work, I had not yet purchased, read, or let alone touched with, dozens of people.
All joking aside, more than a book that peaked my curiosity with the potential intrigue from the title, I immediately saw an asset, that while implicating me, could potentially help justify and defend my personal habits, patterns and approach towards literature developed over my lifetime. Much to my great pleasure, the actual reading of the text delivered the initial hopes and dreams conjured up in my heart, soul, and mind and I was left with three distinct defenses for my guilt.
First and foremost, I have been regularly accused of unduly purchasing books. I am guilty of being a book buyer and it rarely fails that when I buy a new book, usually several at a time, my otherwise incredibly awesome wife, becomes exasperated with me for buying more books when I haven’t even read the ones currently lining the shelves and covering, in stacks, the once open surfaces of my office. So you can only imagine my joy when reading Bayard with his account of Musil’s librarian and the great defense presented for me which I have penned, Why read the books I have, when I can build library?  My defense rests on, not a claim that having a book in my office accomplishes anything, but rather the books I own each mean something to me and sit in relation to many other things in my life. I do have them sorted literally and figurativley based on subject, content, style, emphasis, author, genre and such that truly brings valid meaning and a knowing about of all the books I own. Finally, credibly evidence to for a defense against my guilt!
The second defense and verdict of guilt, if I am to be completely honest, has to deal with more of an inner conflict and justification battle. The second defense is best articulated by the gift Bayard himself claims of his book. Bayard writes in his concludeing thoughts on his composition, “What better gift could you make to a student than to render him sensitive to the art of invention- which is to say, self-invention?”  The charge of developing great thoughts and ideas based on a book I haven’t read, word for word, has been a conflict within me over my lifetime. In my school-aged years I struggled immensely with self-doubt and worth. Reading was very difficult for me. I worked very hard at it. But with most of my best efforts, I never read every word of any book, therefore feeling as though I hadn’t read it at all. I would say I grew up relatively imprisoned by believing every word of a book being read, needs to be read. I felt like I inappropriately fabricated truths about books I had not read. From Bayard’s work, I can see that the actual practice I had for reading books was valid and what I had gained from reading and the synthesizing that had taken place of the information I had read was valid. Again, while guilty, a defense for talking about books I hadn’t read was gained.
The third verdict of guilt and defense, builds off of the second and powerfully affects my understanding of a communal or even global collective wisdom. While Bayard was directly speaking of reading and our interpretation of knowing from what we have and haven’t read, I began to think of all knowing and how subjective all our knowing is. So much of our pooled intelligence could be deemed, pooled ignorance. I do not feel a negative slant needs to be taken, so I feel a pooled ignorance may be a bit dim. But there is truth of the intelligence we do pool, being definitely fragmented bits and pieces of ultimately very random and fractured truths that are very relative and subjective. As Bayard puts it, “What we take to be the books we have read is in fact an anomalous accumulation of fragments of tests, reworked by our imagination and unrelated to the books of others, even if these books are materially identical to ones we have held in our hands.”  The accusation of guilt surfacing in this line of thinking is most of what we know, we make-up. The defense however is, what we have made-up is actually what we do know. Again a sense of empowerment and voice is regained in my heart, soul and mind.
There is no doubt that I am guilty of talking about books I haven’t read. I have definitely accumulated a library of more books than bindings I have cracked. I have given voice to ideas, thoughts and concepts that I have conjured up from skim jobs, partial reads and books that I have read less than every word. Ultimately, I am guilty of adding the bits, pieces and slivers of what I know about life, liberty and this world as truth that I know, but at least now, thanks to Pierre Bayard, I now have a defense for my guilt.
 Pierre Bayard, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2007) 8-10.
 Ibid., 86.
 Ibid., 184.