More True Confessions

Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep making me dopey. Or perhaps it’s the head-spinning shifts in travel plans going on by cell phone right now.* One way or another, I’m prompted to a bit of the kind of self-revelation that I’m not ordinarily prone to. But it’s a question that has fascinated me since grad school when, well before I ever read any David Lodge, I brought it up with my drinking buddies. Not that I want to get into an extended round of Humiliation or anything, but:

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve never read? The thing you really ought to have read years ago. Perhaps you’ve read so much about it that you’ve gotten away with just referring to it when you’ve needed to, and have never been required to plumb its depths. Perhaps you started it and intended to finish it, but never quite did. Or perhaps, unaccountably, you just put it off for years. Perhaps you finally read it this year, or this summer, or perhaps you’re working on it right now.

Me? Walter J. Ong’s Orality and Literacy. The situation is a little bit of all of the above: I read the first chapter years ago, and always meant to come back to it, but just kept putting it off. In part because I could: Ong’s gotten such thorough treatment by so many scholars that I always felt like I’d read it, even though I hadn’t. But the text is key enough that I’ve got to teach it in my new media theory class in the fall, and so I’m finally reading it, for real.

You? Make up pseudonyms, if you like, if you don’t want to be associated with your embarrassing gaps.


*More on this shortly.

3 thoughts on “More True Confessions

  1. Still haven’t read Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. I finally did read Lolita a year or two ago after having it on my to-do list for close to a decade. In addition, I realized recently that I’ve never read a single book by Jane Austen, but I can’t bring myself to feel too terribly embarrassed about that.

  2. When picking a book you’re embarassed about not having read, please pick a book that other people have heard of! You know, one you can find in New York City without having to go to Labyrinth?

    And what’s the fun of learning someone hasn’t read something if you don’t know who they are? It’s particularly bad to learn (as I did thanks to Janet Malcolm in a recent New Yorker) that several of Gertrude Stein’s biographers didn’t make it all the way through Making of Americans. But if I told you I’d never read it, who cares?

    What about children’s books we’re supposed to read? There are kids out there who were denied Roald Dahl the same way friends of mine were restricted to PBS until age 13. Confessing you haven’t read Danny, Champion of the World sounds silly, which makes this whole confession process seem like a pretentious exercise. There’s so many things I want to read and “should” read. But I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of buying a “classic” and having it sit on the shelf as we go out and buy and read books on a theme that’s recently caught our interest. Read what you like, and what compels you.

    Someday, for example, I will feel compelled to read The Odyssey. I could force my way through starting tomorrow, but why should I? It will be enjoyable when I’m ready for it.

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