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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.

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*More on this shortly.

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