Friday, June 5, 2009

How to Really Talk About Books You Haven't Read

On and off, I'm on my way to finish off Henry Hitchings' fascinating book How to Really Talk About Books You Haven't Read.

The following are some meaningful, at times funny, passages that I do agree :

Tell a serious reader that you failed to finish a book, however, is a bit like telling your lover you are 'vaguely committed' to your relationship.

There is an old saying that to lead a full life one must raise a child, plant a tree and write a book.

One of the reasons we are able to get away with pretending to have read books we've never even dipped into is half the time the person we are seeking to impress hasn't read them either.

A crude but useful rule in all matters of the intellect is that if you cannot explain something simply you probably don't understand it quite as well as you imagine.

Last lines of Tennyson's Ulysses, which is based on Dante's Inferno :
That which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

What steps should you take if someone confronts you with the ghosts of Milton or Hegel ?
"Run like hell. Consider buying a gun." (Oh Oh!)


Some "useful" notes as well :

Four books almost no one has actually read
  1. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress.
  2. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf.  (It's not hard to see why.  Like the author's say, how many of the millions who elected Hitler to power troubled to read it either ?)
  3. Robert Burton,  The Anatomy of Melancholy.
  4. Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities.
( It is down right true, at least to me, I've never read all of them.  Want to know the reasons behind, read this book. )

Five words made up by James Joyce
  1. Smilesmirk
  2. Scandiknavery (Blend of Scandinavian and knavery)
  3. weggebobble (a humorous synonym for vegetable)
  4. obstropolos (a noisy mouth)
  5. pornosophical (exhibitionism ?)
Ten "socially useful" Shakespeare quotations 
  1. For a moment when the right expression of pleasure escapes you: 'Silence is the perfectest herald of joy; I were but little happy, if I could say how much'
  2. When you don't want someone to think you approval of a person is all that wrong: 'My meaning in saying he is a good man, to have you understand me that he is sufficient'
  3. When plotting: 'Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it'
  4. When there isn't enough time to make the most of meeting somebody: 'Hereafter, in a better world than this, I shall desire more love and knowledge of you'
  5. If the kids are playing up: 'How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is, to have a thankless child!'
  6. To express one's feelings of resignation when no cure for one's problems is at hand: 'The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope'
  7. To be said with great theatre, if you find yourself getting thrown in a river, or indeed on any other occasion when you want to get some humour out of a fall: 'You may know by your size, that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking'
  8. Faced with being overlooked in favour of someone more physically attractive: 'What, is the jay more precious than the lark, because his feathers are more beautiful?'
  9. When the space of life seems more than usually short: 'I wasted time, and now doth time waste me'
  10. To drive home the point that names are just meaningless conventions: 'What's in the name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet'
2, out of 5, curious verses in the Bible (Authorized Version)
  1. 'Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law' (I Corinthians I4-34)
  2. 'He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord' (Deuteronomy 23-I)
That's all for the day.

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