“Have you read…?” / Memorable Fancies #639

     People were always recommending books to Ellis. He didn’t know why, but after even a brief acquaintance the other person would say “You know, you really ought to read” (some book or author).

     As one might expect, the Bible was the book most commonly urged upon Ellis. Having been raised a Methodist, he could sincerely say “Yes, I’ve read it,” even though his acquaintance did not extend to the minor prophets or even some of the major ones, not to mention Kings and Chronicles.

     But saying “Yes, I’ve read” a particular book led, Ellis observed, to the other person’s relaxing, even promising to buy Ellis a beer or invite him and Mrs. Ellis over for dinner “someday, when I’m not so busy at work.” Ellis learned to be content with these gestural friendships.

     Author-recommenders were more demanding than book-title-recommenders, he considered, in that advised Ellis to read “everything by” (a particular author, perhaps Faulkner or Plato or George R.R. Martin).

     Ellis could satisfy the book-title people by saying “Oh yes, I’ve noticed it in the city library; I’ll check it out next week.” This response, too, could result in a notional beer or the missing dinner that, although it would never happen, nicely complemented the book that Ellis would never read.

     Resolved to investigate, Ellis asked everyone he met one day if they, too, often had books or authors recommended to them. The answer was typically “No; hardly ever. But come to think of it, have you ever read” (some book or author)?



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