Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
This “book” barely qualifies as such; At 150 5×6″ pages (including index and ads for The Believer), I would probably label it a thick magazine.
But, oh, what a thick magazine.
Essentially a reprint of his book log-esque articles from The Believer magazine, it is aptly summed up by the pseudo-subtitle on the cover: “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.”
Virtually every page of this book had a quote I wanted to steal and tack onto my signature line. I am not one to think I would like to hang out with an author just by reading his stuff… Douglas Adams seemed like he would be a bit standoffish, Douglas Coupland is a bit overphilosophical… but if you skipped over his obsessions with European Football and music, I would hang out with Nick Hornby. My answer to the what-famous-people-would-you-like-to-have-dinner-with would be him and Sarah Vowell.
Consider this paragraph from March 2004:
One of the reasons I wanted to write this column, I think, is because I assumed that the cultural highlight of my month would arrive in book form, and that’s true, for probably eleven months of the year. 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 occassional exception– “Blonde on Blonde” might mash up The Old Curiousity Shop, say, and I wouldn’t give much for Pale Fire’s chances against Citizen Kane. 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 twenty-nine times out of thirty.
And then, the following month:
Last month I was banging on about how books were better than anything– how just about any decent book you picked would beat up anything else, any film or painting or piece of music you cared to match it up with. Anyway, like most theories advanced in this column, it turned out to be utter rubbish. I read four really good books this month, but even so, my cultural highlights of the last four weeks were not literary. I went to a couple of terrific exhibitions at the Royal Academy (and that’s a hole in my argument right there– one book might beat up one painting, but what chance has one book, or even four books, got against the collected works of Guston and Vuillard?); I saw Jose Antonio Reyes score his first goal for Arsenal against Chelsea, a thirty-yard screamer, right in the top corner; and someone sent me a superlative Springstein bootleg, a ’75 show at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr with strings, and a cover of “I Want You,” and I don’t know what else. […more babbling about Springstein and Arsenal…] So there we are, then. Books: pretty good, but not as good as other stuff, like goals, or bootlegs.
So, you see… a really cool guy, but you really have to catch him on the right month if you want to have lunch with him.