Friday 21 October 2016

One line reviews by people who clearly hadn't read the books - Part I

I used to wonder why ‘Reading Comprehension’ was a part of our English syllabus (and Hindi as well). After all it was a passage and the answers to the questions asked on it were right there. It was not until much later (around the ninth and tenth standards) that the questions on Reading Comprehension required us to use any form of critical thinking.

While studying for CAT, the specter re-emerged, and was once again almost too simple to take seriously. The only possible use of the RC might have been to gauge reading speed. And yet, there were those who were miserable at it, in school as well as during the MBA entrance-exam runaround.

My first realization that perhaps Reading Comprehension was a more rare skill than I had thought came in the second year Marketing Management class at B-school, when a young lady said “Animal Farm can be read on multiple levels, like, as a children’s story, with cute animals, and at another level, it’s about…it’s a sort of…story about governments, you know…”

I was too nice to shake her violently, shouting, “No, you lackwit, Animal Farm is about the rise of communist Russia, and the dangers of authoritarianism in general. If you see it as a children’s story on any level, you should not be allowed within ten feet of a library or bookstore,” but the thought did cross my mind.

As I delved into corporate life, I found that she was merely one of a large number of people whose RC skills were lacking. The plainest language was being misconstrued, or just ignored, and the number of crises, f*ck-ups and disasters that could have been avoided had certain people just bothered to read what was before them numbers in the hundreds.

Somewhere that was at the back of my mind when Anon-i-am and I started the ball rolling on ‘Reviews written by those who had clearly not read the book’, where we speculated on what the geniuses who messed up at simple Reading Comprehension passages in exams and at work would do when presented with full-length books.

We put it forward as a thread on Facebook, and below are compiled some of the best responses we got (and we got a lot, so this is the result of some rather cruel editing).

All are by me except where indicated.

1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is a short story about a Biblical character working in copper mines. The 'field' in the title is a typo.

2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is about that one cricket match where all the wickets fell to
catches and even the 11th batsman got out somehow.

3. Right ho, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse brings forth an important message about hiring the right prostitute to keep alive your life-force.

4. The Stand is an interesting essay by Stephen King giving insight on how coffee tables and teapoys are manufactured.  [Ravi Kumar]

5. Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy provides excellent information on how two people can climb a tower together without falling

6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandere Dumas tells the story of a rich fat guy who is so obsessed with his wristwatch collection that he counts the pieces every day [Ravi Kumar]

7. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Victor Hugo’s 18th century French medical manual that details remedies for deformities of the spinal cord. [Karthik Lakshminarayan]

8. Half-Girlfriend is a gory first-person account of an Indian serial killer who sawed his victims in half, written by Chetan Bhagat. [Karthik Lakshminarayan]

9. Crime and Punishment is Book III of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s popular ‘For Dummies’ series on the Indian Penal Code, covering Sections 306 to 411. Unfortunately for IPS aspirants throughout India who revere the man, he died before he could finish the series. [Ravi Kumar]

10. Great Expectations is a harrowing tale by Charles Dickens of a 17-year old Indian student appearing for the IIT – JEE.

For entries from 11 - 20 in this series, click here

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