11. I pretend to have read it
I studied English Literature at university. Unfortunately, the term studied is quite loose. These days I regret not reading every book set for me, and taking full advantage, but at the time it was quite hard to read small print with a hangover. We struggled through The Bacchae, Hamlet and Dr. Faustus for a module on tragedy, and blagged our way through a module on 20th Century Plays (our general unprepared attitude prompting our incensed lecturer to write an article about us in the Times that prompted widespread indignation from the hordes of students who had not actually read the set texts). Then, in the third year, we had a module on American literature, led by a lecturer whom I’m unembarrassed to say I developed a huge intellectual crush on. Now, I wish this meant that I diligently read all of the set texts, but I didn’t. I still turned up to class having read the first chapter and a synopsis. But at least I read some of the texts – and loved them; Kavalier and Clay and The Infinite Plan still rank as some of my favourite books. And anyway, this module took in Wonder Woman bondage and Alison Bechdel. The reading list seemed beside the point.
However, The Day of the Locust was on that reading list, and I did not read it. What makes this book remarkable alongside all the other I pretended I’d read. Well, I had to write an essay on this one, for which I received 71 marks – a First. (Meanwhile, the essay I wrote comparing and contrasting The Infinite Plan and The Lovely Bones bombed, precisely because I’d read the book – I had so many quotes written down I poured them in liberally without any actual points to make.) To be honest though, I don’t feel much the worse for wear for not having read it, or most of the university set texts. Nothing will ruin a book like it being mandatory.