#bookaday 12: I pretend to have read it

I’m struggling to think of a book that I pretend to have read. I don’t think I’ve pretended to have read a book since my university days, when I, and everyone else on my course, would sit nodding nervously in seminars and regurgitating points from the York Notes on whichever brick-sized Victorian novel we were meant to have finished that week.

I can’t really think of any other circumstance in which I’d want to pretend I’d read a book that I hadn’t. If I haven’t read something, I’m more than happy to say so. I don’t think there’s any book anyone should be ashamed never to have read.

I can, however, think of a book which I thought I’d read and would confidently have claimed to have done so had anyone asked, but later realised I hadn’t read it at all: Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.

I can remember chunks of it very clearly, and I once wrote an undergraduate essay on its relationship with colonialism. To this day I can talk about it fairly articulately ...  and this was just what I was doing when someone asked me how it ended, and I realised I didn’t have a clue.

It seems I never got to the end of Robinson Crusoe, which is understandable really because it’s so damn boring. You think it will be a tale of great adventure, with Crusoe fighting for survival on his island and being attacked by cannibals, and teaching Man Friday to speak English in a way that’s actually slightly arrogant and a bit racist. But in fact, huge sections of the book are basically just espousing the Protestant work ethic of the day. It appears that, worn down by all the lengthy inventories of how many goats Crusoe has managed to raise and what repairs he’s done to his self-built stockade and how many turnips he’s grown (I may have misremembered that one, to be honest) I simply gave up.

I’ve no idea whether he’s rescued from the island, or by whom. And you know what? I honestly don’t care.


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