Now, there's hope—and an ambitious** French guy to thank.
* In the interest of full disclosure, I have faked it at least once. I only managed to read 50 pages of Bleak House for that Dickens tutorial I took junior year in London, but wrote a paper about it nonetheless. Even though I passed with flying colors, I don't think I fooled my tutorial adviser.
**Oxymoron alert. Pierre Bayard, a literature professor at Paris University, has devised a useful system for talking about books that you've never actually read. Here is his inspiration: "We are taught one way of reading," he said. "Students are told to read the book, then to fill out a form detailing everything they have read. It's a linear approach that serves to enshrine books. People now come up to me to describe the cultural wounds they suffered at school. 'You have to read all of Proust.' They were traumatized."