Momus on paratextual pleasures


“As a student of literature, something you find yourself doing a lot is reading books about books — narratives which tear through the plot outlines, critical receptions and choicest quotes of other books, giving you some kind of rapid gist or taste of hundreds of titles you’ll probably never read. What I’ve always liked about these books-about-books.”

He mentions

He also mentions the fact that the paratext is often better than the text itself

“In a weird, inverted way, some of the books which must be most hellish to read in real life, in real time, turn out, in these metabook accounts, to be the most entertaining to read about” (see paratext).

Example of the latter:

This post reminds me of the following quote of O. Wilde:

“I never read a book I must review, it prejudices you so.” —Oscar Wilde

and my own recent research in thematic literary criticism and my earlier praise of secondary literature.

Via the comments to Momus’s post we come to reviews of books we’ve never read. Stanislaw Lem wrote a few sets of introductions to and reviews of fictional books here and Borges has An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain

To top it off there is ‘How to Talk of Books We Haven’t Read?‘ by Pierre Bayard.

Inspired by The dream life of metabooks