Learning to Live with Books

"We are taught one way of reading. Students are told to read the book, then to fill out a form detailing everything they have read. It’s a linear approach that serves to enshrine books. People now come up to me to describe the cultural wounds they suffered at school. ‘You have to read all of Proust.’ They were traumatized...They see culture as a huge wall, as a terrifying specter of ‘knowledge.’ But we intellectuals, who are avid readers, know there are many ways of reading a book. You can skim it, you can start and not finish it, you can look at the index. You learn to live with a book...I want people to learn to live with books. I want to help people organize their own paths through culture. Also those outside the written word, those who are so attached to the image that it’s difficult to bring them back."

- Pierre Bayard, a professor of literature at the Université de Paris VIII, discussing his new book Comment Parler des Livres que l'on n'a pas Lus (How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read) with Alan Riding in The New York Times (2/23/07).

The book was reviewed in the London Times by a reviewer who hadn't read it.