“I am surprised because I hadn’t imagined how guilty nonreaders feel,” [Pierre] Bayard, 52, said in an interview. “With this book, they can shake off their guilt without psychoanalysis, so it’s much cheaper.”How bloggerly!
Mr. Bayard reassures them that there is no obligation to read, and confesses to lecturing students on books that he has either not read or has merely skimmed. And he recalls passionate exchanges with people who also have not read the book under discussion.
He further cites writers like Montaigne, who could not remember what he read, and Paul Valéry, who found ways of praising authors whose books he had never opened. Mr. Bayard finds characters in novels by Graham Greene, David Lodge and others who cheerfully question the need to read at all. And he refuses to be intimidated by Proust or Joyce.
Having demonstrated that non-readers are in good company, Mr. Bayard then offers tips on how to cover up ignorance of a “must-read” book....
... Mr. Bayard’s most daring suggestion is that nonreaders should talk about themselves, using the pretext of the book without dwelling on its contents. In this way, he said, they are forced to tap their imagination and, in effect, invent their own book.
Well... hmmm... I haven't read Bayard's book, so let me say that this makes me think about devising a set of tips for teaching law school without reading the cases. (Me, I feel compelled to reread the cases I teach right before each class, so that there are some cases that I've read closely more than 40 times. Did you know that it's emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is?)
I know one lawprof who's proud of the time -- like, the one time -- that he got to the end of the cases he'd prepared and used the Socratic method to teach the next case, which he'd never read. It went quite well, he says.
Theoretically, it could work especially well, because your actual need to figure out what happened in the case and why it's in the book would drive your questions. But the guilt!