Have you ever lied about having read a classic book?

Here’s an interesting post at Kill Zone Blog: Faking it.

Here’s how it starts:

I’m sure we’ve all done it – pretended to have read a classic book…agreed when someone gave an intellectual critique of an author we were too proud to admit we’d never heard of before (or never read)…even perhaps ‘faked it’ when asked about a book that we knew we ought to have read in our genre but never quite got around to doing…

And I immediately paused, because seriously? I mean . . . seriously?

I suppose I might turn the conversation from something I haven’t read, like Joyce’s Ulysses to something I have, say, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Or maybe not. It’s not like I’m even vaguely embarrassed about not having read Ulysses; it pretty much sounds like something to suffer through, not something to read for pleasure.

Or I might say regretfully, “No, unfortunately I never happened to read Crime and Punishment.” But I certainly wouldn’t feel ashamed of that.

As for missing “books in our genre that we ought to have read,” well, the genre is so huge, there’s no way to read everything . . . it’s true that you’ll miss some of the authors-in-conversation aspects of work in the genre, but still. Life is short.

Actually, it sometimes seems like I’m constantly coming across authors who may be very famous and well known, but somehow I never heard of them. I never saw a Tamora Pierce book until I was an adult — I would have been all over them as a kid, but somehow it never happened. I discovered Martha Wells only, what, three or four years ago. I read my first book by Michelle Sagara West only a couple years ago even though she has about a zillion titles. I guess I assumed this happens to everyone, so it never occurred to me to worry whether someone might realize I’d never read anything by Some Big Time Author.

So, yeah, I don’t know, I am a little bit baffled by the idea of faking it.

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5 thoughts on “Have you ever lied about having read a classic book?”

  1. I don’t think I even lied about reading a book when I was in grade school. I don’t really see the point in lying about it – anyone who’d judge me for not having gotten to a particular book doesn’t sound worth that sort of trouble, and I don’t like pretending to be something I’m not.

  2. A book I haven’t read (Changing Places by David Lodge) features a party game called “Humiliation” played among academics: name a classic you haven’t read, and get a point for everyone there who has.

    The junior faculty member who admits to not having read Hamlet wins the game, but winds up not getting tenure. I’m sure there’s a lesson there I’d be aware of, if I’d read the book. :-) )

  3. Implicitly, when I didn’t complete GWTW as a high school reading assignment. I finally gave up at around 900 out of 1000 in the MMPB. Just remember hating it, and couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Frankly, I didn’t give a damn.

  4. Pete, these days, if I were assigned a book I hated, I wouldn’t read it. But when I was a student I was soooo dutiful that not reading the assigned books never even occurred to me. So yep, I can honestly say I have *never* lied about having read a book.

    As an adult, I’m with Mary. I can’t imagine a situation where I’d even feel the tiniest impulse to lie about such an unimportant thing.

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