Things to say about a book you’ve never read

by Andrew Blackman

  1. There was a wonderful symmetry to the plot.

  2. I think [insert half-remembered argument from an unrelated review you read in the New York Times].

  3. It was:

    a. [for thrillers] a real page-turner.

    b. [for literary fiction] so nuanced.

    c. [for any kind of printed matter] so powerful.

  4. I enjoyed it for a while, but felt it went on too long (if the other person reacts with surprise and says it was only a 120-page novella, nod sagely and say “Exactly.”).

  5. It was a multi-layered book, wasn’t it? I loved the intertextuality, like those allusions to Babylonian mythology that underscore the narrative structure (will make the other person change the subject very quickly).

  6. As a matter of fact I haven’t read it. I feel comfortable saying this because my ego is secure enough not to be dented by admitting my ignorance even of this famous book that absolutely everyone has read.*

    * Only to be used as a last resort.
Andrew Blackman is a former Wall Street Journal staff writer, now living in Crete and concentrating on fiction. His second novel A Virtual Love explores themes of identity in the age of social media, and his short stories and essays have appeared in Post Road, Spark, Switchback and Monthly Review among others.