Monday, January 31, 2005

Nick Hornby, Polysyllabic Spree, 2004.

This collection of articles appeared in Believer magazine from September 2003 to November 2004. Hornby starts each piece with two lists: books bought that month, and books read.. He then goes on to talk about why he bought what he did, why he read what he did (and why he didn't read), and what he thought about books that month.

In short, the pieces aren't really reviews, although they sort of are--and so I needed to read the articles just because of the similarities to this very blog. All of his essays are breezy, chatty, and light: they take reading seriously, as an absolutely essential part of life, but he never takes reading too seriously. Reading is essential to Hornby's life, but never becomes snobbish about any notion of canon.

I enjoyed reading his reactions to various books. I loved watching how one book led to another and how one blurb on the back of a book could lead to the next. These articles are far more fun as a description of a reader than they are of the books mentioned within the pieces. Pick it up: it's a quick read, and if you're one of those people who can't stop reading, then you'll love this book.

One short example of the way Hornby writes about books:

Books are, let's face it, better than everything else. If we played cultural Fantasy Boxing League, and made books go fifteen rounds in the ring against the best that any other art form had to offer, then books would win pretty much every time. Go on, try it. "The Magic Flute" v. Middlemarch? Middlemarch in six. "The Last Supper" v. Crime and Punishment? Fyodor on points. ...And every now and again you'd get a shock, because that happens in sport, so Back to the Future III might land a lucky punch on Rabbit, Run; but I'm still backing literature 29 times out of 30.