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Presentation on theme: "THEY SAY I SAY & HOW TO TALK ABOUT BOOKS YOU HAVENT READ LAURA DUARTE."— Presentation transcript:


2 THE ARGUMENT Pierre Bayards non-fiction book How To Talk About Books You Havent Read presents the following argument: If you wish to have collective knowledge on books, then you shouldnt read them. Bayard extrapolates on this argument in his first two chapters, which happen to be subsections one and two of the project.

3 Subsection 1: Books You Dont Know Pierre Bayard begins his text with the following claim: reading is the first and foremost non-reading. The author argues that as a reader picks up a book, he/she is involuntarily not picking up and reading all the other books in the universe (p.6) To support this argument, Bayard mentions Musils novel The Man Without Qualities where a General meets a librarian who had never read a book in his life. Surprised, this officer wonders how this librarian can claim to know every single book (p.7) without ever reading any of them. The librarian believes that if he reads books, he will lose perspective. For this reason he limits himself to reading catalogs. Bayard continues by arguing that books are made of other books and for this reason they are not worth reading. He uses Ulysses as an example and suggests that James Joyces novel is simply a retelling of Homers Odyssey. He then introduces the term collective library, which he refers to as a set of books on which our culture depends on at the moment. Bayard continues by observing a distinct difference between the parts of a book, first stating that the interior of a book is more important than its exterior and later dividing the book into content and location. The interior of the book would be its content and the exterior its location. With this, Bayard asserts that the way a book relates to the books alongside it (p.11) is more important than what the book is about.

4 Subsection 2: Books You Have Skimmed In this chapter, Bayard focuses on the art of skimming books, stating that its the most efficient way to absorb books, respecting their inherent depth and richness without getting lost in the details. (p.15) To prove this argument, Bayard mentions Valéry, a critic who warns others of the risks of reading, and Proust, whos work doesnt need to be read in order to be aware of it. The author states that Prousts text can be open at any page and still be understood. Bayard refers to Valéry to support his vision on skimming. This french critic believed that with cultural literacy comes the inherent threat of vanishing in other peoples books. In other words, as we read books we are not only getting lost in their details, we are also losing originality. Just as Bayard mentioned the distinct parts of a book in the last chapter, he also explains the two different kids of skimming: linear and circuitous. While linear skimming follows the order of the book, circuitous skimming jumps back and forth throughout the text. The author proceeds to pose the following question: who, we may wonder is the better reader- the person who reads a work in depth without being able to situate it, or the person who enters the book in no depth but circulates through them all? (p 30) Bayard concludes by indirectly answering this question by referring to both Musil and Valéry. According to Bayard, they encourage us to think of books as a whole rather than individual texts. If we read books thoroughly, Bayard argues, we will easily lose sight of the totality of books.

5 Subsection 3: Books You Have Heard Of In the third chapter of his book, Bayard states that it is ultimately unnecessary to read. Instead of reading a book, he argues, we can read what others have wrote about it. The author uses Umberto Ecos novel The Name of the Rose to prove his argument. In Ecos novel, Baskerville knows what a book is about without ever reading it: gradually, this second book took shape in my mind as it ad to be. I could tell you almost all of it, without reading the pages that were meant to poison me. p 39 Bayard believes every book is governed by a certain logic. Thanks to this, were able to figure out what a books about without reading it. The author also mentions a second logic: all works by the same author present more or less perceptible similarities of structure (p.40) Bayard uses Ecos novel to prove that reading a book can disrupt the collective library of man and that a single book has the capacity to displace every other one (p. 42)

6 Section 4: Books You Have Forgotten In the fourth chapter, Bayard describes reading as an inevitable process of forgetting (p.45) He uses Montaigne, a man who complains about memory trouble as an example. Montainge is unable to recall if he has read a book and fixes this problem by writing notations in the end of each volume he has read. However, the character starts finding contradiction between what he once wrote and what he thinks now: Having forgotten what he said about these authors and even that he said anything at all, Montaigne has become other to himself. (p53) Reading soon becomes a burden for Montaigne. He starts relating it not only to defective memory, but also [...] to the anguish of madness. (p 55) According to Bayard, Montaigne shows the relationship we all have with books: we do not retain in memory complete books identical to the books remembered by everyone else, but rather fragments remembered from partial readings frequently fused together and further recast by our private fantasies. p 56 Books stop being direct links to knowledge, and start being related to the loss of memory and identity: To read is not only to inform ourselves, but also, and perhaps above all, to forget and thus to cnfront our capacity for oblivion. p 56

7 Section 4: Encounters in Society The second part of the book is about literary confrontations. when speaker is forced to speak about books he hasnt read In this chapter, Bayard uses Rollo Martins, protagonist in The Third Man to support his argument. In the novel, Martins is forced to deliver a literary lecture about books he supposedly wrote but hasnt even read. Martins self assurance despite the difficult questions, give him a sense of character and authority, crucial aspects when talking about books you havent read. Bayard argues that as long as a person shows self assurance, the content of what he is talking about is unimportant. The author presents a new term: the dialogue of the deaf. When two people talk about a book they haven't read, they are talking about two different books. This is called the dialogue of the deaf. This is not an issue until the two peoples inner libraries overlap each other.

8 Section 5- Encounters With the Writer The professional context in which you find yourself affects whether or not you find yourself in this situation Are you a This chapters example: Pierre Siniac (characters Gastinel, Dochin and Celine) After summarizing the complicated plot of Ferdinaud Celiné, Bayard annotates that the problem facing Gastinel is that he has to find phrases simultaneously beffiting the book Dochin has read. p. 96 -Writer -Critic -Professor -All of the above

9 Bayard shows a clear relationship between Siniacs thriller and this chapters topic: Encounters with the writer. He further emphasizes that the chances of wounding an author by speaking about his book are all the greater when we love it. He later states that after we write text and are separated from it, we may be as far from it was others are. What Bayard states sounds perfectly logical. When I write essays or poems or short stories, I have a hard time reading them without an editors perspective. Others however, can them as works of writing and not feel attached to them. It is hard for an author to view his text as others see it. If a person really likes a novel, it is most likely that he/she has punctual reasons to why that is. Since, the author cant perceive what the reader can, he/she may feel pressured, or how Bayard describes, wounded.

10 Section 6- Encounters With Someone You Love Basically... The ideal way to seduce someone is by speaking about books he or she loves without having read them yourself. Bayard talks about the influence books have in our love life: Fictional characters exert a great deal of influence over our choices in love by representing inaccessible ideals to which we try to make others conform, usually without success.Although this may be the case sometimes, I believe there are other moments when the ideals represented in fictional characters are not inaccessible. Instead, they influence our type. A clear example of this is the famous prince charming which is present in most fairy tales and which many women wish and some find.

11 This chapters example: Ramis film Groundhog Day Phil is bound to repeat the same day over and over again. In order to make a women fall in love with him, he learns something new about her every day. One of the things he learns has to do with the womens reading interests. He creates the allusion that his inner library and hers are the same. Bayard has stated that if you are able to talk about books the person you love likes, your relationship will be successful. Nevertheless, in this example, the only moment when Phil manages the women to fall in love with him is when he starts doing good deeds for other people.


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