12 March 2007

You Mean You Haven’t Read Proust?

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 3:02 pm

I admit it: I don’t read much in French. I’m far from fluent, so it takes me a long time. Besides, there’s so much English-language stuff I haven’t read. But I think I’m ready to make an exception. It’s a book written by Peter Bayard, a Parisian professor of literature and psychoanalyst, and not yet available in English translation. The title: How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. You can read a description of the book and the author’s intentions in writing it here.

Given the huge number of book discussions saturating the blogosphere, I’ve been amazed at how well-read everybody seems to be. Turns out I’m wrong: Bayard says a lot of people are faking it! What? Is it possible that some of these on-line discussants haven’t actually read Derrida, or Balthazar, or Dawkins? As Bayard says, To be able to talk with finesse about something one does not know is worth more than the universe of books.



  1. “To be able to talk with finesse about something one does not know is worth more than the universe of books.”

    Is this just plain funny, or is it a particularly postmodern joke?


    Genuine question, BTW…


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 March 2007 @ 5:41 pm

  2. I’m not sure, but I think what he wants people to be able to do is to create ideas rather than just parroting back what they’ve read. As we’ve seen on a lot of blogs, there’s plenty of interesting discussion about books that the discussants almost surely haven’t read. The Church and Pomo site, for example, is kind of hard because it presumes familiarity with long texts that are difficult to read and require some philosophical background. You’re one of the few that actually has the nerve to jump in there. Your other buddy there sounds like he’s had enough. I did too for awhile, but I’m back at least for this round on Deleuze.


    Comment by ktismatics — 12 March 2007 @ 8:25 pm

  3. In the spirit of Baudrillard and Barthes, perhaps it doesn’t matter what the author actually said, espciacially if the “author is dead.” Why can’t we just create our own reality and interpretation of what the author said/means? Does it matter if they actually held that position?


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 13 March 2007 @ 1:27 pm

  4. Good point. If you accept th idea of the reader “writing” the text, then why bother reading the text at all? Okay, I’m going off to the bookstore and buy this book right now.


    Comment by ktismatics — 13 March 2007 @ 3:22 pm

  5. You should do a bit of blogging on this and keep us in the loop. It all sounds interesting.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 13 March 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  6. Done and done — scroll up, friend.


    Comment by ktismatics — 13 March 2007 @ 6:18 pm

  7. I must say I’m an example of someone who thinks about ideas rather than accept the complete theory (the only and most important exception I make for belief). I see myself drifting away from the idea of theory testing and refutation. I see myself combining theories and adapting them but I think this typically happens once you’re outside of the box, once you have read enough to understand where ideas come from (theoretical systems) and insightful and experienced enough to see where theories go wrong or how to look at them differently. But in doing this I’m like a child playing with sand.


    Comment by Odile — 14 March 2007 @ 9:54 am

  8. Like a child playing with sand — I like that image. Ideas as grains of sand that you have to assemble into a castle, or a prison, or a village, or just a big pile of sand.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 March 2007 @ 11:52 am

  9. I like castle’s of stone and sand. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you which one I’d rather play with!


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 15 March 2007 @ 1:42 am

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