A list of things I routinely pretend to have read.
I enjoy speaking with authority about things that I have no real knowledge about. It provides a strange thrill, like lying to the shareholders, riding a tricycle with no hands or shoplifting what turned out not to be pornography from a Parisian kiosque. The cornerstone of this ancient and hallowed practice of faking knowledge is the ability to overstate how well read you are. That and generous use of the words “admittedly”, “conversely” and “colloquially”. Adverbs, those are adverbs right? Generous adverbiage kids, that’s the key to this con.
So here’s a list of a few things I haven’t really read and the things I say to pretend I have read them.
- Video essays from Youtube. By far my most common claim these days. There’s guys out there writing great analyses of politics, philosophy and culture. Not only do these essays have pictures, but the pictures move! Most of it goes one ear and out the other, allowing me to feel smart for about 15 minutes, but what fragments I do remember, I will gleefully pass off as my own, starting the sentence with “the other day I read this thing on Foucault’s Madness and Civilization…” on Youtube. I was reading it on Youtube. I’m incredibly well-tubed.
- Books I read in high school. Catcher in the Rye, Crime and Punishment, To Kill A Mockingbird, Shakespeare in general. Books I pretend deeply affected me, when really I trudged through them resentfully whilst fighting the urge to rewatch Baseketball for the 17th time. That’s the movie where Trey Parker of South Park drinks fat liposuctioned out of Marlon Brando’s ass from a ziplock bag through a straw.
- Anything by James Baldwin. I’ve started Another Country, but it’s hard to finish because I’m usually multitasking: I’m reading James Baldwin whilst attempting to be seen reading James Baldwin. Cause I’m totally empathizing with the plight of the american black man but in a ostentating my penguin classics way. A way that says, yes, I am a 30 year old white man who still fantasizes about comparing the Wu-Tang Clan to Shakespeare in front of a middle school class/his parents... My mother furrows her brow but then my father lovingly places his hand on her and says his ways are not like ours Marsha.
- All of HP Lovecraft. I’ve read some HP Lovecraft. Which immediately entitles me to alpha Lovecraft authority status with the group. Kneel. And prepare for the inevitable lectures on cosmic indifference to let you know how special I am. The universe favours those who know it favours no one. Right?
- 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World. Just so I can compare what I presume happens in them to the War on Terror, Trump or the Internet… like, in general. Bonus points if I manage to shoehorn “panopticon” into the conversation.
- Dune. Whenever someone mentions Dune I erupt in a cry of “Classic! The spice must flow!” Followed by self-satisfied silence. Or a great opportunity to name drop Jodorowsky. An opportunity I realize I have just taken. But I name-dropped him first and by the rules of conversational appropriation, his fairy dust will now land exclusively on me. Get your own auteur! Poser.
- Allen Ginsberg’s entire oeuvre. I love Howl, especially the first line: “I’ve seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked” or is it “howling hysterical naked”? Doesn’t someone howl at some point?
- V for Vendetta. Just so I can go on diatribes about how the film bastardised a great (or so I hear) graphic novel on anarchism into some bulls#@t about freedom for american audiences. Then when someone answers with specifics from the graphic novel I seize up, go silent and hope they keep talking whilst frantically replaying the film in my head.
- Marx. I think here I’m part of a distinguished lineage which may or may not include Kim Jong Un, your right-wing “socialism!” uncle and every male in Paris trying to get laid between the years 1965 and 1970 . Doesn’t stop me from namechecking “the means of production”, making a weak pun on “dialectical materialism” and waiting for someone to offer the “beautiful in theory but impossible in practice” cliché so I can pull the Willy Wonka meme face.
A thing I have actually read:
- The novelization of the movie Independence Day.