talking about books you’ve never read


It would, of course, be wrong to take everything Bayard writes here seriously – and maybe he would not want us to – but we could do worse than heed his therapeutic advice when he suggests that

“in order to . . . talk without shame about books we haven’t read, we should rid ourselves of the oppressive image of a flawless cultural grounding, transmitted and imposed [on us] by the family and by educational institutions, an image which we try all our lives in vain to match up to. For truth in the eyes of others matters less than being true to ourselves, and this truth is only accessible to those who liberate themselves from the constraining need to appear cultured, which both tyrannizes us and prevents us from being ourselves.”

Bayard cheerfully insists that he will continue to talk about books he hasn’t read – he seems to have got away with it until now – and offers the optimistic notion that only when people overcome their “fear of culture” can they themselves begin to write.

more from the TLS here.