Sunday, 9 December 2012
116/111 - The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
I've read a couple of Nick Hornby's books before and after downloading the sample of this book on iBooks, I decided to go for it. I felt like I could do with a little inspiration for books, and that this would be a good place to start (I also bought Howard's End Is On The Landing by Susan Hill).
This book is a compilation of magazine columns that Nick Hornby has written for The Believer magazine, and is more a book about reading than a book of reviews. I enjoyed it a moderate amount, in that I found a lot of truth in how he conveys his book reading and buying habits, however my enjoyment was a little stunted because I had not read most of the books he talks about, and so a lot of the text didn't have much relevance to me (although I did find a few good recommendations!).
Nick talks about his haphazard reading habits, and how nothing ever seems to be read in any particular order. I related to this because I tend to read something in a certain vein and then blast through a whole bunch of other things that are similar to it, like the Young Adult kick I went on a few months ago, or the post-apocalyptic phase, or the non-fiction phase. It also tends to affect my buying habits, in that I'll read something and then feel suddenly compelled to go and buy a whole load of other books in the same arena to keep my momentum in that subject going.
I found the book to be really funny in places, much like the other stuff I have read, and like I said, for me it had a lot of truth to it.
1. I liked his attitude of not being snobby with the kinds of books you read. I like to read feminist theory, but I also like to read Stephen King, and ghost stories.
2. I agree that reading can sometimes be a disappointing experience, which is why I also agree that you should never force yourself to finish a book you're not enjoying, not like I had to when I was an English Lit student.
3. I laughed at the idea of putting certain books in a book graveyard of sorts, where at a certain point you really need to admit that the possibility of ever reading certain books should be abandoned as it's never going to happen. I feel this way about a lot of books.
4. I also understood and laughed at the compulsion Nick feels to buy books. I get that feeling a lot in bookshops, that I simply must buy this book, right now, even though I'm reading something else at the moment and probably won't get around to reading this book for several weeks, if not months, and already have dozens of other books waiting to be read. Doesn't matter - I need to have that book now.
I also laughed when he referenced Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot, which is a mammoth book I had to read not once, but TWICE while I was at university - once in my first year and once more in my final year. I had hated it so much that I had blocked out almost everything I had learned and so had to re-read the blasted thing. I hate hate HATE Victorian literature. In fact in this book, Nick makes a great point that one of the reasons that authors like Dickens wrote such laboriously long novels was that they were paid by the word and they also serialised novels back in the day, so there was no benefit to being concise, or cutting out superfluous characters, and so you're left with these huge monolithic novels which I take absolutely no pleasure in reading. Makes me shudder to think of those ghastly novels which put me off reading so much when I was a student. Ridiculous.
In summary: good book, lots of interesting stuff.