Billy Collins

  • Skimming Is Fundamental

    An obvious question facing a reviewer of Pierre Bayard’s book on the business of reading and nonreading is whether or not to actually read it. Writing a review of a book on the subject of feigning familiarity with books you have not read without reading the book in question holds an undeniable appeal.

    And you, reader of this review, may not want to read Bayard’s book, either, since one way of not reading a book is surely to make do with what you pick up from other sources, such as reviews. The title itself, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, is enough to tip you to the contents. Who

  • Phat Chance

    The one stream of poetry which is continually flowing is slang.

    —G. K. Chesterton

    One of the many benefits of owning the two-volume New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (Routledge), besides the sheer size of the thing up there on a shelf with your other weighty reference books, is that you can dip in just about anywhere and enjoy the exuberant, endless display of human inventiveness with language. Let me demonstrate by flipping open volume 1 to . . . dick, as chance would have it. Besides ten meanings for that word, all familiar to an American speaker such as yourself,