HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: The fabulous Shelf Awareness asked me to do their wonderful "Reading With...." feature (hurray, such an honor) and you can read it here! It's fun.
But one of the questions they asked me was "What book have you faked reading?"
This is a serious and fraught question, and requires one to confess any number of literary lapses. My answer:
"MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT by Charles Dickens. My high school class was assigned to read it in April of the year we graduated. It was 500 pages and we rebelled. We all got together and divvied up the book, each read part of it and then compared notes. Then we all wrote essays on Sairey Gamp. Sorry, Miss Godfrey. We loved your English class, and Dickens, but we were done with high school."
I also, in high school, fake-read ETHAN FROME. I thought it was ridiculous. (Sorry, Mr. Thornburg. I loved your English class, too. And sorry I said I read it. None of us did.) Now, of course, I love Edith Wharton, beyond all love, and so it all worked out very nicely.)
Okay, Reds, confess!
LUCY BURDETTE: this is so embarrassing that I'm only admitting to one. It's bad for a psychologist to say this, but mine my fake (poorly done, since this was a small seminar and it was completely obvious who wasn't participating) was THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS by Sigmund Freud. I was working full-time and this class was an extra, so time was an issue. But more important was the fact that the book was a mass market paperback about a foot thick. (Ok, an exaggeration, but still almost 500 pages.) Though I admire the man and found his theories fascinating, this book was impenetrable. (We weren't smart enough to divvy it up like you did Hank!) I was relieved to find this chunk of prose in an Amazon review:
"Freud successfully makes his point within the first 75 pages of the book - the remaining 400 pages are a dry, archaic, tiresome, and in my opinion are not worth the time to read. Much of the book is dedicated to analysis of the dreams of either Freud or Freud's patients. Since Freud lived in early twentieth century Germany, the dreams described are anachronisms and for the most part are irrelevant. Also, I think a lot of meaning is lost in the translation from German to English."
HALLIE EPHRON: This is why I did not even consider majoring in English. I'm a slow, very undisciplined, sloppy reader. I'd say MOST of my assigned reading in high school and even college I, ahem, skimmed. I got pretty good at going to the library and looking up criticism of whatever the assigned book was and rewriting it in my own words. Of course that was in the days before the Internet; it would be so much easier now. I remember it wasn't until I was out of college that I actually read a book for pleasure and remembered what fun it is.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I didn't major in English either, Hallie. What is REALLY embarrassing for
me is all the books I just plain haven't read, and I mean the books that literate people are supposed to have read. My list is scary. On the other hand, I read things that I liked obsessively, so am pretty well versed in a lot of odd things. But as for not having read things I said I'd read, hmm. JULIUS CAESAR in 10th grade English. I did not like that play. And I have no idea how I passed that class...
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Okay, here's mine, and it's a doozy for a self-proclaimed nerd: I've never read THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I loved THE HOBBIT as a young person, but the Rings just seemed so long and boring at the time. Then years passed, and the movies came out, and well - why bother wading through the endless descriptions of too-good-to-be true elves when you can look at Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen?
In the just-never-got-to-it category, I am still innocent of all the great Russian writers. Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Pasternak - I've ignored all the greats. This is even more embarrassing since one of my best friends love them so much she keeps Russian novels in the bathroom to read.
And my biggest miss in my own genre... I've never read any of the Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane books. (Ducks against incoming fire.)
HANK: Oh, Julia, you are in for a treat! And I never read any Little House on the Prairie books, OR Anne of Green Gables. But I never pretended to. Debs, they should NOT start with Julius Caesar. It is so great, but 10th grade is not the time. And I did major in English! For which I am endlessly grateful. (Except I missed out on out physics, which I would have loved except for the math part. But that's another blog.)
Okay readers: Your turn! What books have you FAKE read?