Saturday, October 27, 2007

Skimming, skipping

Pierre Bayard (whose How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read is definitely on my list of desiderata) is one of only a handful of interviewees who manages to outmaneuver Deborah Solomon. Here's my favorite bit of the interview:
You write in your book about Montaigne, who confessed to having a poor memory and to forgetting about books he himself had written. Which leads you to ask: If we read a book and forget that we read it, is that the same as never having read it?

I think between reading and nonreading there is an indeterminate space that is quite important, a space where you have books you have skimmed, books you have heard about and books you have forgotten. You don’t have to feel guilty about it.

But what about those of us who read to feel things — to experience pleasure, an end to loneliness?

Of course I read in order to feel something. And to feel an end to my loneliness, of course, just as you.

Then why are you so willing to devalue the experience of close reading in favor of skimming? You seem to believe that knowing a little bit about 100 literary classics is preferable to knowing one book intimately.

I think a great reader is able to read from the first line to the last line; if you want to do that with some books, it’s necessary to skim other books. If you want to fall in love with someone, it’s necessary to meet many people. You see what I mean?

1 comment:

  1. The NYT Public Editor just ripped on Solomon for essentially making up her interviews. For instance, going back and inserting questions she didn't ask to make the answers seem like she's got the upper hand. Even though she was just rapped for it, I still wouldn't trust her "interviews" even though they may seem much less snarky than before.