No, he hasn't read all these.
"But you've read most of them?"
"No, no" Derrida says. "I've read three of four of them. But I read those four very well."
It's a joke, and a joke about Derrida and Derridian reading, but seriously, who has read all the books they own?
If this seems obvious, it should. Yet, without fail, cultural critics act as though there's no difference between book purchase and book reading, as if measuring the one were measuring the other. As if the one always and everywhere meant the other. As if there were a simple relationship between the two acts, and the only reason anyone ever bought a book was to read it, the purchase a promise always made good.
Somehow, this needs to be broken.
There has to be a way to talk about book purchases as culturally meaningful and yet distinct from and different from acts of reading.
The most recent example of what I'm finding a persistent problem, a graph of the "Top 10 Most Read Books in the World":