Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Nick Hornby's book The Polysyllabic Spree is a hoot. He writes well but not deeply about the books he reads. His book is not the meditative sort like Alberto Manguel's A Reading Diary. Rather, Hornby is more like a regular guy, a well read regular guy, but a regular guy nonetheless. Early on he declares that he could never write a literary novel, because, unlike the character in the book he had completed, he would not go into a multiple page reverie when he discovers he has been burgled, no he says, "I can only imagine myself, or any character I created, saying, 'Shit! Some bastard has trashed the house!' No rumination about artist friends--just a lot of cursing and maybe some empty threats of violence." Except for one book I didn't find myself compelled to read any of the books Hornby writes about, or even find myself thinking, "Wow, that really sounds like a great book!" The exception was David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Hornby loves Dickens and his passion comes through. I wanted to pick the book up off the shelf and start reading it right away, or at least put it on the top of my teetering bedside pile. But I discovered my Bookman has it on his bedside pile with a bookmark in it. I will wait patiently for my turn to read it. One of the things that Hornby excels at is writing about what it is like to be a reader. He declares that he was depressed for a while because he realized that he'd forgotten most of everything he has ever read. But he "bounced back: I am now cheered by the realization that if I've forgotten everything I've ever read then I can read some of my favorite books again as if for the first time." Hornby also finds that organizing his book collection by the "Trivial Pursuit system works better than Dewey." The Polysyllabic Spree is a fun and quick read. Hornby feels like a friend and makes you glad to be a reader.