DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Sacrilegious Jargon: Fake Literature

Written by: on October 14, 2018

The world of education has been turned on its head, and an end has to come to this madness! Firstly with the introduction of “How to Read A Book” by Adler & VanDoren forced a reboot of the cerebrum to adjust to the new levels of reading. Now, this, “How to Talk About A Book You Haven’t Read” written by Pierre Bayard. The title in itself sent an array of uncomfortable emotions paralyzing the thought pattern.

How could someone possibly talk about a book if it has not been read? Nonetheless, the book was written by a professor of French Literature and psychoanalyst. Could this title be accurate or it is a play on the human thought pattern? Maybe it is a gimmick actually to pick up the book.

Whatever the case, immediately an influx of images flooded the mind of past professors who probably have read this book title and decided to take it seriously. Several years back, an incident in a master study intensive course, shocked the educational foundation for this reader. One wonders if that particular professor just read the title of this book as well.

Approximately twenty master level students gathered at the university for an onsite intensive course, where professors from both the university and guest lecturers came to share the knowledge and equip the students for the next level of ministry. The week went exceptionally well until one of the guest lecturers in his cultural ignorance begins to single out two students in the class. He would spout out assumptions which were countered by the students and caused the students to reevaluate the lecturer’s book which was the premise of the course. One day during the lecture one of the students being to question certain principles in the book which contradicted with his speech. When he could no longer justify his answers, he stated: “Are you sure that is in there?” The entire class responded “yes” and identified the page number. His response, “I did not know that was in there.” The next question presented, “Do you not know what you wrote in your book?”

It was probably a moment that every professor dreads; a well versed and inquisitive student who reads a book with intentionality and had no idea what the book included. The most shocking element is that he is the primary writer. At that point, a calculated assumption determined he employ a ghostwriter for his writing.

Moving beyond the initial shock and awe of the book title; Bayard’s insight and perspective n the approach of talking about the books are fascinating.

It not so much focused on not reading, instead it is an insight into how we read, why we read and if some books are even necessary to read.

As stated before, the title caused a paralyzed state for the reader, maybe it stems from how the structure of reading penetrated the educational foundation during childhood.  Bayard gives greater insight into this issue.

“Our educational system is clearly failing to fulfill its duties of deconsecration, and as a result, our students remain unable to claim the right to invent books. Paralyzed by the respect due to texts and the prohibition against modifying them, forced to learn them by heart or to memorize what they “contain,” too many students lose their capacity for escape and forbid themselves to call on their imagination in circumstances what faculty would be extraordinarily useful.”[1]

The difference is during childhood reading and creativity operated hand in hand. Children were encouraged to read books through its entirety, then encouraged to produce writings of their own to express their creative writing abilities. Reading providing an avenue of escape from the norms of life and immerse in the world of the unknown through literature.

As individuals advance in educational studies, reading becomes convoluted. Students trying to grasp all five books from four to five different classes is overwhelming. Students try to circumvent the process of reading by bringing reading for classes and cramming from the test, but retention may last 24 hours. Most common kind of reading is likely reading as consumption: where we read, especially on the internet, merely to acquire information. Information that stands no chance of becoming knowledge unless it ‘sticks.”[2]

“Reading is first and foremost non-reading. Even in the case of the most passionate lifelong readers, the act of picking up and opening a book masks the countergesture that occurs at the same time: the involuntary act of *not* picking up and *not* opening all the other books in the universe.”[3]

One aspect of the books did resonate with the reader, and it dealt with the restraints of reading. Bayard presents the following as constraints 1) the obligation to read, 2) obligation to read thoroughly and 3) the way we discuss books.

Recall the lecturer spoke about earlier in this blog?  He is well known and well respected throughout the church community, and his books remain popular among Christian universities. His books series even remains on the shelves of ministry leaders today. However on that particular day, when asked a question about the focus about his book, he could not give a direct answer. Perhaps he should have read Bayard. For he would have discovered this text, “If you have begun talking about a book imprudently and your remarks are challenged, nothing prevents you from backtracking and declaring that you have made a mistake.”[4]

Alternatively, maybe he should have read his book. Nevertheless, the conclusion was made by this reader never to review, read, nor reread his books. The hope is not to come across his writing in doctoral studies, if so the book “How to Talk About A Book You Haven’t Read” is crucial to survival.

Though this is an insightful and entertaining book, it will require a re-read. The cerebrum remains the reboot stage.

[1] Pierre Bayard, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, u.s. ed. (New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA:, 2007), 184.

[2] Julie Beck, “Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read,” The Atlantic, January 26, 2018,…

[3] Bayard, 6

[4] Ibid 154.

About the Author


Shermika Harvey

One response to “Sacrilegious Jargon: Fake Literature”

  1. mm Mary Mims says:

    Hi Shermika, I really enjoyed the post. I think what the professor did in the lecture of forgetting something in his own book, is the biggest fear I have about not really reading a book that I cited. He was in an impossible situation. Even to admit he was wrong, would cause him to loose credibility. However, I agree there may be times when Bayard’s techniques are necessary, so I am glad to have them, but there is always a balance.

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