Now that we understand “How to Read a Book” we can learn how “Not to Read a Book” and still talk about it!!! What a time saver for poor, tired students! In “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” Pierre Bayard encourages us to learn why we strive for an image of cultural literacy. We need to come to grips with our motivation so that we can “survive the avalanche of fragments of books that threatens to engulf us..” (p. 120)
In spite of the opening quip, I believe that Bayard tried to convey some things about reading that were important to him. Part One – “Ways of Not Reading” is actually in Swiftian fashion a recounting of the ways that we actually handle books. We are “given permission” to read, skim, or glance at books. The important thing is that we remain true to ourselves by looking for what we want to get out of the book. Part Two – “Literary Confrontations” is very humorous, yet good advice is given when actually speaking to the author of a book, “…praise it without going into detail.” If you can’t even feel comfortable doing that then in Part Three – “Ways of Behaving” we are invited into the realm of “authentic creativity” (Bayard, p. 166). “For knowing how to speak with finesse about something with which we are unacquainted has value far beyond the realm of books” (Bayard, p. 184).
Bayard’s purpose is to encourage students to go beyond the mere reading of books to discover their own “inner book”. Bayard’s book was engaging and effective and I believe Bayard succeeded.
I’m sorry, Monsieur Bayard, but your book was too enjoyable and I read the whole thing!!
Here are some reflections:
- Page 31 – “… it is only by maintaining a reasonable distance from the book that we may be able to appreciate its true meaning.” This is a skill that I will need to work on. I still feel that I need to read a whole book, especially if the Professor has assigned it. Out of the thousands of books that Jason could assign, he chose this one. There’s a reason and unless I am truly overwhelmed with reading I will probably still read the whole book. This part ties in with Adler’s “Inspectional Reading”. One should decide whether the book “contains matter you still want to dig out, or whether it deserves no more of your time and attention.” (Adler, p. 35)
- Page 46 – “… the book is an undefined object that we can discuss only in imprecise terms, and object forever buffeted by our fantasies and illusions.” While I am sure that there are many who consider the Bible to be a collection of myths, I don’t. And I believe that we can discuss God’s Word relying on its truth. I understand the gist of what Bayard is trying to say, but it doesn’t apply to every book.
- Page 82 – The “inner book”, an imaginary book, acts as a filter to us for what we may read. I think this point is really important. We all come to any book that we read with a set of presuppositions that were formed during our lives. Past experiences will influence what we remember or don’t remember when we read.
- Pages 109,110 –There were serious undertones in this otherwise witty book. Several times throughout Bayard’s book the importance of humility comes through. Though Bayard is humorous and borders on sarcasm in his illustrations, for me anyway, the importance of thinking of others comes through, even if in the end it is for selfish reasons. In “Groundhog Day” the character Phil “changes and loses his arrogance toward others.” When Phil becomes interested in others, “he himself becomes interesting, and he manages, through his kindness, to win Rita’s heart in a single day.” The lesson is learned and whether Bayard intended it or not, it is a Christian principle.
There are many more interesting points. I really enjoyed Bayard’s references to so many classics that I have read. And whether he would approve or not there are now one or two more that he covered (did he read them?) that I want to get, and yes, I will probably read in their entirety, just for the sheer pleasure of it!