como falar de livros que você não leu

23 10 2007

Sam Anderson acha que o livro How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read de Pierre Bayard não vale a pena ser lido.

He [Bayard] wants to cure us of the deep cultural neuroses that govern our reading. His main argument, synopsized identically in reviews from here to Berlin, runs roughly as follows. Western culture has fetishized books almost as much as it has breasts and cash. Our reading is governed by a corrosive idealism that fills us all with secret shame: We believe we should be doing it more and better, and that, until we do, we fully deserve to be sneered at by college dropouts at the Strand. To Bayard, however, this is unrealistic. The line-by-line, cover-to-cover experience of a text, he argues, is passé; true reading consists mainly of nonreading. By this he means not just an absence of reading but a positive set of shadow skills that we should honor and cultivate and teach to our children: browsing covers and spines, reading first sentences, skimming key passages, monitoring gossip, and b.s.-ing at cocktail parties. Deep knowledge of a particular book, Bayard contends, is almost always less important than an understanding of that book’s position in a “collective library”—the imagined cluster of books to which it’s related. You’ll probably never need to know, e.g., that Leopold Bloom eats a Gorgonzola sandwich for lunch, but it might help to know that Ulysses is a long twentieth-century experimental novel by James Joyce, patterned on The Odyssey, and that it uses stream of consciousness to describe a day in the life of a handful of Dubliners. Bayard is the opposite of old-school canon-boosters like E.D. Hirsch and Harold Bloom, who equate a lack of knowledge about Shakespeare to a lack of opposable thumbs. In fact, he argues that ignorance of the details of Hamlet ultimately allows us to respond more creatively to the text—and therefore to be more fully ourselves.

E então, ele desce a lenha no livro:

It turns out that Bayard’s book benefits significantly from not being read. Although it’s witty and charming and often fun, it seems to have been designed for abridgment—it’s best when condensed into bullet points. Its argument is, despite all the psychoanalytic bells and whistles, pretty familiar. Is it news to anyone that we forget most of what we read, or that all reading is subjective? So to sensationalize matters, he consistently leans on the counterintuitive: Because we can read only a fraction of all the books published, he writes, “all reading is a squandering of energy.” The book’s tone is stranded halfway between a real work of social theory and satire—it’s Derrida crossed with “A Modest Proposal”—and this tension makes it hard to decide what’s really at stake.

I still believe in the private ecstasy of reading. It’s one thing to jockey for social position by saying that Dostoyevsky introduced psychology into the novel, or that Chaucer had a fuller grasp of humanity than Shakespeare. It’s another thing to experience, with your full attention, Raskolnikov wandering feverishly around St. Petersburg, or the young scholar farting in the face of his romantic rival in “The Miller’s Tale.” Real reading is not just hoarding fodder for cocktail chatter, it’s crawling, phrase by phrase, through a text and finding yourself surprised or disappointed or ruined or bored with every other line. This direct connection—the voice that enters your brain and mingles with your own internal voice—is the only way books really matter, and experiencing it requires a kind of deep surprise at the words in front of you. If anything, we’re already too good at talking about books we haven’t read. The challenge now is to preserve our ignorance.

Eu discordo um pouco de Anderson. Acho que o autor tem um público específico em mente: quem não gosta de ler e quer parecer well-read. Ele não está tentando convencer um amante de livros de que é perda de tempo ler um livro de capa a capa. Quem está acostumado a essa experiência, jamais vai se convencer de tal coisa.

Quem não gosta de ler, por outro lado, vai ler e ficar pensando: “eu não disse? Eu sabia que era perda de tempo”. E vai vibrar com as dicas de Bayard.

Outra coisa que Anderson esquece é que uma conversa sobre livros entre uma pessoa que ama ler e alguém que detesta qualquer tipo de leitura é uma impossibilidade. Se você leu a história toda do Raskolnikov, duvido que vai fechar o livro e pensar que o Dostoyevsky inventou o romance psicológico. Tanta coisa pra ver na história!

Eu realmente acho que quem não tem o hábito de ler se entrega no primeiro comentário que faz. Só consegue enganar mesmo um outro bobo igual a ele, também interessado em impressionar os outros.


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