Apologies for the strongly-worded title, but it is time for another interlude in my 26-Week Book Challenge. (Which is sort of nearing the end now, and I’m not really sure what I’m going to be posting about once it’s done. Suggestions welcome!) The subject that I do not have an answer for is a book you tell people you’ve read but haven’t. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to regular readers of my blog, because I don’t buy into that kind of (and here’s the title!) pretentious bullshit.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can think of only one reason why you might want to claim that you’ve read a book when you haven’t, and that’s to pretend that your taste is more high-brow than it really is, or that you’re more intelligent that you really are.
Frankly, I’m not entirely sure that books show off your intelligence. Just because you’ve read the entire collected works of Shakespeare doesn’t mean you’re intelligent, it means you’re very good at reading Shakespeare. Or maybe it doesn’t – just reading it doesn’t mean you’ve understood it all. Hell, it could just mean that you’ve got a very good dictionary.
So no, I haven’t read the collected works of Shakespeare. I’ve not even tried. I still intend to watch Hamlet at some point, but that’s only because it’s the one with David Tennant, and he’s hot. I greatly admire Shakespeare for his contributions to the English language, but that doesn’t mean I want to sit down and struggle to read his works.
I’ve studied Russian, but I haven’t read War and Peace or Anna Karenina. I have perforce wrestled my way through a number of Russian texts, but the only title I can remember reading is The Master and Margarita, which I picked because it was something to do with the devil, so it sounded like it might be vaguely interesting. Don’t ask me whether it was, please, I remember little of it. That’s what reading in a language you struggle with does to you.
So, just like I’m not embarrassed about any of the low-brow books I’ve read in my life, I’m also not enough of a snob to claim that I’ve read highly acclaimed books when I haven’t. I dislike reading heavy, drama-laden books where little happens for chapters on end (and God, do the Russians excel at those!), so I’ll stick to my love for adventure and fantasy, thanks.
All that said, I still intend to work my way through the Bible once. I tried before and failed, but that’s mainly because I was stupid enough to try to read it in bed, and it really is impossible to stay awake while working your way through the temple measurements in Numbers. Still, as a nightcap it worked wonders…
(Oh, you’re wondering why I want to read the Bible? Well, it’s sort of a long story really, but when I was a child I went to a Christian school. Not because my parents were especially religious, but it was the best school in the neighbourhood. It was quite Christian though, in that we had to learn one hymn every week, we said a prayer before class every morning and we got Bible stories twice a week. I always loved those, provided they were Old Testament stories. Daniel in the lion’s den! Samson and Delilah! David and Goliath! Awesome stories. I hated it whenever we got to Christmas or Easter, because then you’d get the boring Jesus stories, but the Old Testament I adored. And then I grew up and read selected parts of the Bible and found out all the things they never told me at school! Jacob had two wives, yes, but of his twelve children only seven or eight were theirs, the other ones were children he begat by his wives’ servants! Moses went to warn the pharaoh of the plagues, but God told him that pharaoh wouldn’t listen, because he would harden his heart, just so God could show off how powerful he was! And that’s why I want to read the Bible. To find out all the stuff that was edited out of the kiddie-friendly version.)
And now I’m off back to writing my book, because for once it’s actually coming along nicely.