How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read
What a great title. I mean, you have to love a book that tells it like it is. Wanna talk about that latest bestseller everyone is talking about? Go For It! The odds are good that no one else has read it either. I have not read How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, but the title was enough to get me thinking. What are some of the greatest books that most people talk about, but never actually read?
Being a bookworm myself, I have read most of the books that I talk about. I have had the bad/good fortune to have work that has allowed me to either read on the job, or listen while driving for hours getting to the job. I have not always read The Classics, but I have put in my share of time with them.
So, books that people talk about but have not read.
#1. The top of this list has to be Frank Herbert’s Dune-easily the most unreadable book every written. Dune makes the Bible seem like child’s play, and I mean the original Bible written in Hebrew. Dune was where the word Ecology first showed up and was a must carry around for thousands of self-righteous college kids. The people who made Dune the movie were sure that they were going to make gazillions of dollars on the film, as everyone had to have a copy of this book close at hand. The movie was bad, people who had never read the book hated it, people who had read the book hated it, people just hated it.
#2. Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book-I know, this should top the list of books everyone owned a copy of, but never read, but I really hate Frank Herbert’s Dune. Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book was his love letter to Communism and it was the law to have a copy with you at all times. Ah the simple joys of dictatorhood.
#3. Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris-Ok, I read Solaris about twenty years ago, or was that how long it took to read it? This is the masterwork of a Polish Sci Fi writer that most people have never heard of. Solaris is not really a novel, as Lem liked to think of himself as a genius, and well, geniuses are like Virgina Woolf and James Joyce-rules of grammar? They don’t need no stinken rules of grammar. Plots? They don’t need no stinken plots! So Solaris is an odd mixture of entire chapters from textbooks and history books on Solaris, written in the dry and unreadable form of most textbooks and history books. There are tiny bits of story movement and there is the illusion that there will be a resolution to the story, but nothing ever happens. Solaris is another one of those books that lots of people felt smart walking around with a copy tucked under their arm.
#4. Ulysses by James Joyce-I managed to get through about half of this book, often listed as the One of the Best Book Ever Written. It is a baffling, confusing, and utterly pointless exercise in stating the bleeding obvious. We see the same day from several different points of view. But since it is the same day, we are told the same things over and over again. There is a little scene early in the book when one of our countless heroes stops off at a butchers and buys himself a kidney for breakfast. He is happy to have this kidney, as he is found of the subtle taste of urine. This little bit of business is usually as far as most readers get.
#5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Call me Ismael. The first few paragraphs of Moby Dick are simply amazing. That feeling of quiet desperation and the longing to get far from the maddening crowd always strikes a pure and true chord with me. Ok, I read Moby Dick and I do think that it is one of the greatest books every written. It can’t be made into a movie, just as Ulysses can’t be made into a movie-this is a book and it was made to be read. Moby Dick is verbose, bombastic, overblown, and any other words you can to use for something that never knows when to stop talking. And it is grand and wonderful. One of the odd little mysteries in Moby Dick is when our hero Ismael finds himself “married” to a head-hunting harpoonist after they spend the night together. Is our hero gay? Well, it sure looks that way. Does Melville make a big deal out of it? Nope, just another day in the life. But what a life Ismael has to start with.