Monday, November 14, 2005

46. The Polysyllabic Spree

by Nick Hornby

I would say that I am, at heart, not a very social being. After a few weekends of going out and generally spending time with people, I wanted nothing more than to spend some quality time alone with some well-written pages. A Friday evening trip to my two favorite bookstores brought me two books that I’ve been wanting to read for some time: Chicago Comics yielded the afore-posted Clyde Fans and Unabridged proffered Nick Hornby’s The Polysyllabic Spree. Both of which I had finished by Saturday night.

I know that it’s probably not cool to like Nick Hornby anymore, especially since that awful film adaptation of Fever Pitch (which I haven’t seen but am assuming was awful because of Drew Barrymore, nor have I read because it’s about soccer), and especially since he’s become kind of that author that it’s okay for guys to like (I don’t really understand the gender division in reading, but whatever), but I love Nick Hornby. I just do. I have since reading High Fidelity and I still do despite the last two pages in How to Be Good and I’ll continue to love him, even if I never read Fever Pitch (it is, after all, about sports).

That being said, what could be better to fill a weekend of reading than a book about books written by one of my favorite authors? The feeling I got from this was what I’m guessing most chicks get from watching a Julia Roberts movie marathon. Or something. I don’t know what you girls do.

The Polysyllabic Spree is a collection of Hornby’s Believer essays, chronicling the books he buys and the books he reads. As most bibliophiles know, the books-bought pile is always greater than the books-read pile and Hornby provides such a sense of validation for this that makes me want to rush out a buy more books. The only thing that’s stopping me is the money. And the space (I’ve long run out of open bookshelves.) But that’s okay. So are a lot of the things we bibliophiles do; let me share with you some of the things I’ve learned:

- I’m not the only one who can’t remember the majority of what she’s read, beyond knowing it was good or bad. Hornby finds this depressing. “What’s the fucking point?” is how he puts it. I wonder the same thing too, especially when my friends ask me about a book I’ve read and my only response is, “I don’t know what happened! I read a lot, okay?”

- You can ruin a good book by reading it poorly or at the wrong time. “I’m beginning to see that our appetite for books is the same as our appetite for food, that our brain tells us when we need the literary equivalent of salads, or chocolate, or meat and potatoes,” and “We are never allowed to forget that some books are badly written; we should remember that sometimes they’re badly read, too.” Like splitting my time with American Gods. I hear that’s an amazing book. I couldn’t begin to explain the plot to you.

- You can’t really plan your path in books, which I regularly try to do only to be tripped up by some other book that demands my attention. “Being a reader is sort of like being president, except reading involves fewer state dinner, usually. You have this agenda you want to get through, but you get distracted by life events, e.g., books arriving in the mail/Word War III, and you are temporarily deflected from your chosen path.”

- The “Trivial Pursuit” cataloguing of books trumps the Dewey decimal system. Personally, I’ve got hardbacks separated from paperbacks separated from mass markets; then fiction, women’s studies, sociology, children’s, graphic novels, tv/music/pop culture, other non-fiction (i.e. cookbooks, reference books, etc.). Of course, it’s all starting to run together, what with the lack of shelf space.

- It’s okay to panic about not having enough books to read. There may be a catastrophic snowstorm. I better start stocking up in July.

- “There is very little point in persisting with a book that isn’t working for me, and even less point in writing about it.” I’ve slowly come to this realization myself. It’s very freeing.

- “Books are, let’s face it, better than everything else.” True that, Mr. Hornby. True that.

Of course, Hornby goes on to discuss his chosen books in specific, and that’s great because I have some lovely reading suggestions now, but man, it just feels like I can hold this up and point to it, saying, “See? I’m not crazy! This is legitimate stuff I’m doing!” (It’s shocking, but I have been asked, “Why do you read so much?”) Whether or not it was his intention, Hornby has provided some much-needed liberation to the truly bibliophilic, those of us who eschew friends, movies, and drinks for a night curled up with ink and paper. You can’t convince us to do otherwise, it’s just who we are. If my love for Nick Hornby has ever faltered, I love him all the more for understanding why that would be so.

2 Comments:

Blogger piksea said...

Don't you just love when you get that kind of validation? I am always thrilled to come across other readers and see that it's not just quirky little me.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Exxie said...

Oh, I know. If you haven't been there, Chicklit is wonderful for that sort of thing. Of course, it does tend to increase one's literary expenses. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

10:53 AM  

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