24 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Oh, the Lies!

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish, is perhaps a bit more revealing than usual: the top ten books you lied about (about reading, about not reading, about liking/disliking, etc). Oy.  This is going to be completely embarrassing if I choose to be no-holds-barred honest about this stuff!

1). Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  Never read it, only faked it.  I've read parts.  I've seen bits of various film adaptations.  But how shameful is it to have been an English major AND to take a Shakespeare course in grad school without reading Hamlet?  Pretty shameful.

2.  As a good Southern girl growing up in Mississippi, I'm pretty sure I lied at some point about reading the Bible.  I was raised Episcopalian (we don't really read the bible) among Southern Baptists, who have perfected what is known as the Bible Drill--they can identify and turn to almost any verse in the bible in under 5 seconds.  It's a little scary.

3. "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner.  You can't grow up in Mississippi with the name Emily without being asked a million times whether you've read it. After a while I just couldn't bear the looks of astonishment when I said no, so I eventually learned to say "yes, but his short fiction simply cannot compare to his novels, can it?" 

4.  The Moviegoer by Walker Percy.  Everybody raves about this novel.  I read Thanatos Syndrome, which is a little racy and a little trashy, then tried to read this book.  It was a no-go.  But I've still laid claim to it.  Again, Southerners take their writers very seriously.  I probably wouldn't have been invited to certain dinner parties if I'd admitted I didn't like it.  

5. To Shoot Hard Labor by an anonymous Antiguan.   I actually did read this, upon the recommendation of a taxi driver from Antigua who became a friend.  He said it was the best work written about Antigua.  If it's the best, let me just say that I don't want to read the worst.  It was self-published and not at all well written.  I lied and said that I enjoyed it.  I would do it again. 

6. The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien.   I probably read the first 50 about a dozen times and never got further into it.  In grad school it was pretty hip to say that in terms of sophistication,  it was to The Lord of the Rings what The Lord of the Rings was to The Hobbit.  And since I didn't want to appear unsophisticated...I'm sure you can tell where this is going. 

7. The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.  Everybody raved about this book when it first came out, including me.  The problem is that I didn't really think it was all that great.  Fascinating, conceptually speaking.  But I got a little bored reading it. (It's the story of how an incarcerated madman was the greatest single contributor to the compilation of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.)

8.  Delta Wedding, Losing Battles, The Optimist's Daughter: These are all novels by Mississippi writer Eudora Welty.  Did I read them? No.  Have I pretended to?  Most certainly.  See reasoning above about Southerners, their pride in their writers, and dinner party invitations.  (I have read many of her short story collections AND her memoir, though.  I really think she's a great writer.)

9. Almost anything by Flannery O'Connor.  I've claimed to have tried reading any number of her short stories.  Even before I met the man who became my husband, a man whose first love was Flannery O'Connor, I think I fibbed about reading her.  Again, Southerners, dinner parties, etc. 

10.   And now I'm going to cop out and be a little disingenuous and stop naming names because the rest are all living writers.  I've worked in the book business since 1997 and I've met hundreds of writers.  Wined and dined with them.  Interviewed them. Befriended them.  Over the years I've told countless fibs about how much I enjoyed their work when I hadn't read it or hadn't liked it.  These days I try to be more careful about what I say and I can almost always find something to praise honestly. But to say more than that would be indiscreet and we can't be having that.  Not if I want to keep getting invited to dinner parties, Southern or otherwise.  


  1. lol I would have to agree on some of these. Like Hamlete. I'm also an English Major and taken Shakespeare classes and yet I've never read it. You aren't missing much when it comes to A Rose for Emily.

  2. I just can't tell an author that I liked his work when I didn't. It's difficult for me to lie.

    Hope you'll stop by my blog: Readerbuzz. Not much there this week, but maybe, if you browse a bit, you will find something else of interest. And I do have a great giveaway going on....

  3. I picked up The Professor and the Madman when I was visiting my mum and thought it seemed interesting but I never got past page 50, I found it a little bland.

    Nice list!

  4. Have you read Rose for Emily now? You should; it's just a short story. It doesn't really compare to the novels though:) Flannery O'Connor is pretty wonderful.

    Come check out The Scarlet Letter's Top Ten Tuesday

  5. Do you feel better for coming clean? If so, that was worth all the dinner parties in the world! I loved your post. ;-)

  6. +JMJ+

    Your remark about Southern writers and readers makes me wonder whether there are regional trends in lies about books. You wouldn't catch a "Yankee" lying about Faulkner, I'm sure. ;-)

    If I were a writer you had worked with, #10 would make me really, really paranoid. LOL! But I'm sure most people in the book (and movie) business know that not everyone they meet who gushes about their book really means it, so it's more of a conventional pleasantry than a terrible act of deception.


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