rereading henry james

BarryShane Berry at the Dublin Review of Books:

In his surprisingly thoughtful bagatelle How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, Pierre Bayard challenges the binary division of books into those we have read and those we haven’t. He suggests a more nuanced approach, reflecting how we really experience literature. To buttress his argument, Bayard throws out the concept of the collective library, “the larger set of books on which our culture depends at that moment”. Anyone acquainted with the collective library is granted a degree of latitude:

To a cultivated or curious person, even the slightest glance at a book’s title or cover calls up a series of images and impressions quick to coalesce into an initial opinion. […] For the non-reader, therefore, even the most fleeting encounter with a book may be the beginning of an authentic personal appropriation.

The work of Henry James would seem to merit at least a shelf in Bayard’s hypothetical repository.

more here.