Do you do this? I know sometimes I do...I have a habit, not a bad habit in the scheme of things, but it is a sneaky and quite sad habit that is almost unnoticeable to the whole world. I’m a literary poseur, I pretend to have read books that I know will impress others and, worse still, I always carry a copy of a ‘classic’ book around with me when I go on train journeys or I’m sitting in the sun. “Wow, you’re reading Don Quixote,” they’ll say. “That’s supposed to be really good.” I’ll just nod sagely, shrug my shoulders and say, “It’s hard work but it’s worth it.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love reading and read all the time, it’s just that I love the feeling that people maybe think you’re brighter than you actually are. Personally, I read (when I’m home, away from prying eyes) very trashy novels from Stephen King to Catherine Cookson. These novels I can absorb so easily and find no trouble reading whereas something by Yann Martel would take me weeks to read and by the end I always feel I didn’t ‘get it.’
And I never get caught out, well almost never, the people I meet on my travels have never read these books and those that say they have I have my suspicions about. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were a lot of people out there like me who have ‘read’ as many classic books as me. Those very few people who have actually read the book are so eager to impress me with their knowledge of the story that they rarely notice that I give monosyllabic answers to their questions and quickly move the conversation to safer subjects.
Picking a book to read is easy. I started on books I was supposed to have read at school and when I’d finished not reading them I didn’t read other books by the same authors. After that I went a bit more modern and tried to not read my way through all the Booker Prize winners, when I hadn’t read as many of these I started picking a book mentioned in the reviews that are always on the back of my current book. You know, “Book A is a Book B for the nineties.”
Reading the reviews on the back is about as far as my actual reading ever really takes me, though sometimes I might just brave a few pages to see if I can glean any understanding before beating a hasty retreat. The reviews allow me to give anyone who asks a brief oversight of the book and, another bonus; appear worldly and wise at the same time. “Oh, yes.” I’ll say. “It’s the Book B for the nineties.”