Also, some of the other grad students are Horrible People. I am standing in the garden, holding a beer and having one of those screamed conversations you have at loud parties. The funny, handsome, and arrogant N says, “I hate it when people in grad seminar pretend to have read something they obviously haven’t read.” I nod and agree. He says, “I make it a policy just to announce that I haven’t read it. If they have a problem with that, they’re posers and snobs.” I nod and agree some more, and then I shout, “Exactly. I think we should all go around and admit what we haven’t read, and just get it over with.” G, who is in Rhetoric, raises her beer, as if this is a toast, and announces, “I haven’t read Of Grammatology.” This sounds radical and daring – remember that G is in Rhetoric and it’s the early nineties at Berkeley. N the good looking and already-published in Representations says, “I haven’t read anything by Norman Mailer.” Well, I have and I am tempted to flaunt it by saying, “Don’t bother.” Instead, fool that I am, I chime in, “I haven’t read Kant.”
The conversation stops. The entire party stops. Silence absorbs my confession.
N, smiling, looks at me pityingly. “I wouldn’t announce that, if I were you.”
G, miming utter shock, not smiling. “But you’re an art historian, right?”
I always make my students read (some) of Critique of Judgment now in my MFA proseminar, thus inoculating them against this particular form of the fumble, but it’s inevitable. As Hugh of St.-Victor observed, “There are those who wish to read everything. Do not try to do this. Let it alone. The number of books is infinite, and you cannot follow infinity.”
Alexa Sand, Utah State University