His suggestions include:
- Build on elements you do know about, like the book’s cover, reviews and other public reaction to it, and gossip about the author. [Full disclosure: Think how easy it would be to apply these prinicpals to The Higher Power of Lucky.]
- Change the subject.
- Admit not knowing a particular book while suggesting knowledge of the “collective library” into which the book fits.
Meeting a book’s author can be particularly tricky. Here, Mr. Bayard said there was no need to display knowledge of the book, since the author already has his own ideas about it. Rather, he said, the answer is “to speak well of it without entering into details.” Indeed, all the author needs to hear is that “one has loved what he has written.”
While I don't have to do these things with modern books, I do admit that for anything written before 1983, I'm a bit sketchy. I've never read Silas Mariner, Tess of d'Ubervilles, or even (gasp!) To Kill a Mockingbird. (Full disclosure: I did set out to read it to my 11 yo, but kid found it boring, and it has been abandoned for The Amazing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl.)