Friday, October 26, 2007
Review: The Polysyllabic Spree
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
Summary: A collection of columns Hornby wrote for The Believer about the books he read (or didn't read) each month.
My thoughts: I want to have Nick Hornby over for dinner! I loved this book!
I had the same kind of kindred spirit reaction that I did to 84 Charing Cross Road. I'd assumed I'd like it, as I've liked his books, and I was right. This is what I'd hoped So Many Books, So Little Time would be like. It seemed to be more about the books, somehow, even when he was talking about what had happened in his life, SMBSLT seemed like the other way around. He discussed the books he'd bought, the ones he'd read (often not the same ones at all) and how some books led to others - an author's work might lead to a biography of that author, or vice versa. But he did it a a funny (so funny!), approachable way. One month he read just David Copperfield and found it hard to get back into lesser novels. Even though I think I'd only read one of the books he did, I still enjoyed each column and how life either got in the way or enhanced his reading - becoming a father for the third time and football season meant he read less those months, for example. I was impressed that he'll read just about anything, from biographies of sports heroes to the letters of Anton Chekhov, with lots of novels in between. I was very curious to find out his opinion of one of the books he bought, Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willet. Maybe it'll be in the sequel, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt. (I didn't like it at all and my book club wasn't too impressed, either. We really didn't get why it was described in the blurb as "witty" when it wasn't, it was confusing and rather icky.)
One bit that struck me was that he, like me sometimes, is able to be put off a book by a little thing. In Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal (the only book I think he and I have both read) he notes that no-one has ever said "Arsenal won Liverpool 3-0." after a football match, as her young character does. ("Trashed" or "thumped" are examples of what people do say.) And then his "dismay and disbelief led me to question other things, and the fabric of the novel started to unravel a little." I thought it was an interesting and true point, that such a small thing really can distract you from the rest of the book.
My favourite sentence was: "...after a lifetime of reading, I can officially confirm that readers' writers beat writers' writers every time." Right on, brother!