School Library Journal
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Adult/High School-Bayard begins this primer by explaining that even the most voracious readers can only read so many books, and for every book one chooses, "all the other books in the universe" are put aside. Even if one has not read a book, it is still possible to be aware of its "cultural location" or how it is situated in relation to other titles in our collective awareness. For example, the author confesses that he has not read Joyce's Ulysses, but he knows that it is a stream-of-consciousness retelling of the Odyssey, and that it takes place in Dublin in a single day. Searching his "intellectual library," he feels confident discussing what he knows. Books that we do read become a part of us, and those we discuss are mostly what Bayard calls "screen books," or substitute objects we create out of our own notion of the book. The second part espouses the idea that "readers and nonreaders alike are caught up in an endless process of inventing books" through discussion. And finally, the last part reveals how the author believes the exercise of discussing unread books offers the opportunity for self-discovery and the freedom to invent one's own text. By using our own experiences and memories, we create our own book in the telling. Witty, thought-provoking, and definitely worth actually reading, this title promises to be popular with English teachers looking for ideas to jump-start writing exercises, as well as with teens who realize that they simply can't read everything.-Dana Cobern-Kullman, Luther Burbank Middle School, Burbank, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Bayard (Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?), a professor of French literature at the University of Paris openly (if not entirely convincingly), confesses to having neither the time nor the inclination to do much reading. Yet he is all too aware that in his profession, one is often expected to have read the literature one is teaching or talking about with colleagues. In this extended essay, a bestseller in France, Bayard argues that the act of reading is less important than knowing the social and intellectual context of a book. He is so convinced of this that he claims there is great enjoyment-and even enlightenment-in discussing a book one has not read with someone equally unfamiliar with it. Despite appearances, Bayard's volume is not a self-help book or a bluffer's guide to great literature, but instead serves to warn people not to try to impress others with how much they have read. The truth is, most of the time they're fibbing and there are many gradations between total reading and complete nonreading, he declares, including hearing about a book, skimming it and forgetting its contents. A little too much impenetrable psychoanalytic jargon sometimes threatens to overwhelm Bayard's argument, but Bayard's at least partly tongue-in-cheek argument about not reading is well worth reading. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
In this hilarious and elaborate spoof, Bayard proves once again that being almost ridiculously erudite and screamingly funny are by no means mutually exclusive. In grand Swiftian style, the author offers a staunch pseudodefense of the art of what he calls non-reading, in which one must claim as all but divine the right to hold forth about books that one has skimmed, forgotten, or failed to read at all. With tongue firmly in cheek, he argues that it's more than enough indeed, preferable in virtually all respects to be familiar with a book's reputation and in particular to understand its place in the bibliographic pecking order. What percentage of commentators, after all, has actually read Proust's novel? Paul Valery certainly hadn't, as Bayard notes, but it didn't stop him from discoursing upon it at length. There's a whiff of the gleeful perversity of French deconstruction theory here, but the book's true angel is Oscar Wilde, whose witticism provides Bayard with a mock rallying cry: I never read a book I must review; it prejudices you so. --Nance, Kevin Copyright 2007 Booklist