Feral Mom admits to having conversed from time to time about books she hasn’t actually read.
[A]s I reflect on my literary sins, I have to admit that Pride and Prejudice is just the tip of this fraudulent iceberg. There’s all sorts of books that I’ve fronted like I read–so effectively, in some cases, that I’ve even fooled myself–for years now. Books I always intended to read, hell, books sitting on my goddamn shelf, that I just haven’t gotten around to reading.
The sad part is? I’m an, erm, English major. Hell, I have an advanced degree in literature. Should I be stripped (heh heh) of my degree? You be the judge. In any case, confession is good for the soul, so I present for your perusal the Fraudulent Five. These are all books that I’ve talked about in mixed company and have never actually read–in some cases, haven’t even cracked the cover.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Crime and Punishment, and Moby Dick make the list, among several others.
I’m not sure I could come up with a similar list, mainly because I’ve successfully persuaded most people that I’m illiterate. I did eventually get around to reading Crime and Punishment in college, three years after writing a high school term paper about Raskolnikov’s tortured conscience; same thing for Huckleberry Finn and Inferno, both of which served as the basis for my junior thesis. As for Moby Dick, I started reading that eleven years ago and have been about 100 pages from finishing ever since. Meantime, I’ve forgotten everything about the book, which means I’d pretty much have to start all over. Screw that. I’m just going to assume he gets the goddamn whale.
Nevertheless, during the ordinary course of lecturing, I occasionally mention books I’ve never seen or picked up. I don’t necessarily make any direct claims, but I imagine students actually think I’ve read them. Last week, for example, I discussed James Peck’s Freedom Ride, which I can discuss for about 45 seconds only because I’ve read about it via second-hand sources. It’s a short book that I really should read, but like Feral Mom, I’d guess the likelihood of that happening is somewhere beneath 50 percent.
By far the strangest unread book I discuss in class is The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, a notorious specimen of anti-Catholic propaganda/soft porn from the mid-1830s. I spend a couple of minutes on it during conversations about antebellum nativism. A slightly edited version is apparently available through Google Books, so I really have no excuse now.