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Umberto Eco on unread books

I haven't read a novel in ages and the internet, in its succession of increasingly short content forms, reduced my attention span to the first sentence of a tweet. But what more do I need to read in order to know what I have felt? From beyond the semiotic grave claws Umberto Eco, offering (via a review of Pierre Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read ) barbed comfort to those of us who suffer reference anxiety. On Unread Books.

... critical context is Bayard’s crucial point. He declares without shame that he has never read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but that he can talk about it by alluding to the fact that it’s a retelling of the Odyssey, which he also admits never having read in its entirety, that it is based on an internal monologue, that the action unfolds in Dublin during a single day, et cetera. “As a result,” he writes, “I often find myself alluding to Joyce without the slightest anxiety.” Knowing a book’s relationship to other books often means you know more about it than you do on actually reading it. ... An intriguing aspect of this book, which is less paradoxical than it might seem, is that we also forget a very large percentage of the books we have actually read, and indeed we build a sort of virtual picture of them that consists not so much of what they say but what they have conjured up in our mind.

And now we do this with the news, too.

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