So, you ask, how can I be more pretentious? The easiest way is to use words in combinations that don’t make any sense, thereby making the listeners feel stupid and making you look great. For example, instead of saying, “I like to read books,” say, “The various permutations of counterintuitive vagabonds metaphorically amplify ergonomic sensations of Neolithic positivism, perpetually refracted through carnivorous, if archaic malapropisms of the pseudo-deconstructionist perspective.”
What does that mean? It doesn’t matter. I’m smart, and you’re an idiot because you don’t know.
But getting to that point is fairly easy. All one needs is a thesaurus and several months’ worth of free time to memorize it. I can personally guarantee that speaking like that will help you acquire just the sort of friends who will fantasize about throwing you into an active volcano.
That aside, the first real step towards pretension comes with something much more straightforward: books, specifically classic books. Therefore, I’m going to metaphorically walk you through a system that would take your aspirations of pretension out of the realm of delusion into the realm of reality.
We’ve all been in that situation when someone goes on and on about some book they’ve read. The conversation typically starts with, “Hey, I read this highly revered book the other day, and it changed my life. Let me tell you in intricate detail how I’m better than you are because of that.”
Speaking in this manner serves a dual purpose. First, it makes everyone around you feel inferior, which is an absolute must for being pretentious. Second, “intricate detail” is code for “I’m going to recite random passages from the book,” which will make you appear not only intelligent, but in possession of a memory that would make Socrates curl up in the fetal position.
“But Sam,” you might say, “memorizing passages from classic novels will take a lot of time.”
That’s true. And for beginners, there’s a pretentious little cheat you can use: make up the passages. The typical objection to that idea is that someone will recognize your deceit and attempt to publicly humiliate you. But, as I noted in my immensely insightful Shakespeare piece, people who have actually read the book will:
- Never admit they don’t remember that part, or
- Look up the passage later to prove you wrong, but the conversation will be hours old
by then, so you’ll still win.
For the sake of argument, say they expose your lie. Simply tell everyone (using a gleefully condescending chuckle) that you were reciting a passage from an early, unpublished draft of the novel. “After all,” you can say, “I read so many drafts of the book that it’s sometimes a trifle tricky to keep it all straight.” (Note the perfectly placed alliteration in that sentence).
Now the other person is stuck having to admit he doesn’t have access to the earlier draft, thus making you look like the intellectual powerhouse you are.
With that primer, what books should you reference? As a great person once said, “The great works of literature are the ones everyone talks about, but nobody reads.” In a poll taken in 2009, it turns out that people lie about reading great literary works all the time. Therefore, the likelihood of you having encountered someone who actually read a classic novel is very low. Exploit it.
So why would people lie about that? I quote, “Research that we have done suggests that the reason people lied was to make themselves appear more sexually attractive.” Men who read books are so ridiculously attractive to women that such advice should come with a lengthy disclaimer detailing how great your dating life will be. Plus, I can tell you from personal experience that my knowledge of Russian literature got me so many dates in college that I can barely keep track of all the depressing endings they had.
Ironically, George Orwell’s 1984 was repeatedly in the top 10 of books people have lied about reading. Therefore, attributing quotes to this book will make you win at everything. If you end up running into an Orwell scholar (which I pretty much am, and I say that with complete humility), that scholar may call you out. If that happens, say, “Huh, perhaps I was confusing it with Finnegan’s Wake. I just spend so much time thinking about profound ideas that I often make simple mistakes.”
If the Orwell scholar points out that the two novels have nothing to do with each other, you have two options:
- Tell him if he actually read Finnegan’s Wake, he’d understand. The Orwell scholar will make various jerky movements, indicating that spontaneous combustion is very much in his immediate future. Why? Here’s a secret: literally no one has read Finnegan’s Wake including the author, James Joyce. (I, naturally, have read it multiple times). If you gave spider monkeys crayons then electrocuted them as various intervals, they’d write something more coherent than that novel.
- Tell him George Orwell would hate him for not being his own person, then sit back and watch the scholar’s life collapse like a balloon that’s been napalmed.
And thus the circle is complete. Both you and the Orwell scholar will be talking about books neither has read, and the only thing that will happen is everyone will think you’re smart. You’re welcome.
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