See, the thing is, the B-V is actually quite a good writer, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that he doesn't read real books. (Sorry. Should I have said "real" books?) It just doesn't seem... right, somehow. Which is why I'm always gratified to hear about writers whom I like who also happen to share my reading habits. I'm too old to have my assumptions challenged. It makes me cranky and irregular.
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (#4)
Much as I love Nick Hornby (to the extent that I even tried to read Fever Pitch, despite the fact that it's (a) non-fiction, and (b) about
The book jacket describes this as "a hilarious and true account of one man's struggle with the monthly tide of the books he's bought and the books he's been meaning to read." If that doesn't convince you to read it, might I add that in Anastasia Krupnik fashion, Hornby prefaces each month's essay with lists: one of the books he bought that month, and one of the books he read. Aha. I got you with the lists, didn't I?
Not only is this collection ripe with eclectic book recommendations and the types of acute observations about reading that made my heart sigh, "Finally, someone understands me," Hornby's writing is, in and of itself, delightful. You've heard the phrase "a writer's writer." Hornby is a blogger's blogger. His essays are wonderfully circuitous, rambling, self-referential, and peppered with fantastic insights, wicked turns of phrase, and moments of surprising beauty... in short, as bloggy as all get-out.
An example? Here you go:
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. See? I mean, I don't know how scientific this is, but it feels like the novels are walking it. You might get the occasional exception -- Blonde on Blonde might mash up The Old Curiosity Shop, say, and I wouldn't give much for Pale Fire's chances against Citizen Kane. And every now and then 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 twenty-nine times out of thirty.If I dare to disagree with anything, it's only to quibble and mention that I'd back Pale Fire against Citizen "Overrated" Kane any day of the week. (Am I trying to start trouble here? Mayhap I am.)
Do I recommend this collection? Most heartily. If circuitous, rambling, self-referential talk about reading is what you dig -- and I can only assume you do, because you're here -- I give 1:1 odds you'll love this book.