Many lie over books ‘to impress’

Four in 10 people have lied about what they had read to impress friends or potential partners, according to an article on the Beeb website.

I’m really heartened by this news. Being widely read makes a person attractive! Deal with that, you iphone flaunting skinny jean wearers. I see your piercing, and I’ll raise you my Rushdie.

“The men polled said they would be most impressed by women who read news websites, Shakespeare or song lyrics.

Women said men should have read Nelson Mandela’s biography or Shakespeare. “

Of course I lied about reading when I was younger.  Joseph Campbell. Shakespeare. Couple of French writers. A surfeit of poets. Upon reflection though, I think I lied more about what I hadn’t read. Self-help books. Linda Goodman’s Love Signs. Woman’s Era.

I don’t lie about reading any more–it’s too dangerous and stupid, now that I’m a professional reviewer.  Moreover, one of the few benefits of growing old is that you don’t care as much about impressing people–co-existence, that’s my goal.  So: I haven’t read Nelson Mandela’s biography. The last song lyrics I looked up: Bohemian Rhapsody. 

What books have you lied about?

This article made me fondly recall Changing Places by the incomparable David Lodge.  The novel mentions a party game called Humiliation, where each person names a book he hasn’t read but assumes others have, and gets a point for every one who has read it. So the person who hasn’t read a book everyone else has gets the most points.  For instance, if you haven’t read Harry Potter but everyone else has, you’d be winning. 

The players at this particular party are English professors from a large American university. I don’t remember the exact details, but there’s a Type-A character whose need to win is only matched by his need to look good–a real dilemma if you’re playing Humiliation, eh?  Anyway, this professor admits to not having read Hamlet, and wins the game–but is subsequently rejected for tenure because everyone knows he hasn’t read Hamlet. My description does no justice to the sparkling irony that imbues Lodge’s writing…please, if you’ve never read his work, do so at once, and I’ll bet his backlist will head your 2009  TBR list.



4 thoughts on “Many lie over books ‘to impress’

  1. AT LAST I find someone who’s read David Lodge and loved him. I just finished reading Nice Work — nice enough but without the bite of Changing Places or Small World. Though the lit crit heroine is a real joy.

  2. Oh, haven’t come across that one. Have you read Therapy? Very good again, especially the Tenerife holiday and studio filming bits.

  3. @ Shrabonti: Yes, I do like Therapy. I don’t care for Lodge’s pre-1970 novels, but all the rest are excellent. The only real disappointment is the novella/play Home Truths–it doesn’t have the elegance of the rest of his work.
    “Thinks” is great fun–set in the creative writing and cognitive science depts. of a British University. This book was my first Lodge, and got me on to his backlist. Highly recommended!

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