Day 161-- Housekeeping vs. the Dirt

Nick Hornby--author of High Fidelity, About a Boy and Fever Pitch--likes to read. Hornby likes to read so much that he writes about it monthly in the Believer, a literary magazine put together by publishing house McSweeney's.

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt is a collection of 14 book review columns, and the sequel to his first collection, the Polysyllabic Spree. Each month, Hornby lists the books he bought and the books he read. He may not read the same books he bought that month; in fact, he may not ever read some of the books he bought. The Believer staff also told Hornby not to write negative reviews about books. As a loophole, Hornby can write something like "Anonymous comedy/thriller" in his Books Read chart and then proceed to bash it, or list it and not review it at all.

Hornby's reviews are especially interesting because he's a madcap writer. The reviews don't hold to any format; he says what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. He's frequently funny, usually insightful, and possesses an eclectic taste in books. He spent one month reading as much Truman Capote as he could; he spent another trying to figure out why he can't understand science fiction; he spent another being freaked out by the Motley Crue biography the Dirt.

Hornby's wit and writing style help make the collection work, but he quite reflective about some of the books he reads. One of the best examples is how he absorbed Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, one of my favorite novels. Hornby--"an atheist living in a godless country"--was awed by Robinson's novel; "...for the first time I understood the point of Christianity..." Hornby's gentle description of his reading process is heartwarming.

I also think that reading these sorts of books (not like there are that many, though) helps introduce me to new authors. The essays are interspersed with blurbs from new books that Hornby loved. Two were so good I'm making a point of getting them eventually.

So Hornby made me a fan, and solely by reading.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 2/13/2007 05:02:00 PM,


At 10:05 PM, Blogger Qere Ketiv said...

Is there any way you could jazz this up as a leaflet for use in the coffee shop? It is a very good book review about a book that reviews books. Whew.


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