Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nick Hornby: The Polysyllabic Spree

This past year or so mr Bani has been reading The Believer quite often (well, at least copies of the magazine have been turning up here and there in the flat). So it only follows that he would want The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, which is a collection of the columns Nick Hornby wrote for The Believer over a period of two years. So, since I'm a bit of a sucker for Hornby and was in the mood for something easy to read but not stupid, I nabbed it off the shelf, where it was resting atop the other books that had a space in the original row (now that we have de-cluttered it has its own space, three cheers for us!). I've read all Hornby's novels I think (barring maybe one? or two?). I was very pleased with How To Be Good, even though critics seemed to think it was weaker than his previous work - I thought he did a good job of writing from a woman's point of view, and the story was interesting. Well done.

So this compilation turned out to be completely my thing. Hornby's task was to simply write about what he had bought and/or read every month, and in theory, he speculated, this might show if there was a pattern to what he reads. Since the magazine has forbidden snarkiness there are a few instances of "unnamed literary novels" being abandoned half-way through because they're too terrible to finish - which amuses me. Hornby creates a fictitious fight with the Polysyllabic Spree, which is what he calls the people who run The Believer. He describes them as a sort of cult, and it's very funny.
[...] the fifty-five disturbingly rapturous and rapturously disturbing young men and women who edit the Believer [...]
[...]the eighty horribly brainwashed young men and women who control this magazine [...]
[... ]the seventy-eight repellently evangelical young men and women who run the magazine [...]
[...] those teenage white-robed prudes.
Anyway, that's really not very important. What's important is that I want to be like Nick Hornby. This blog was supposed to be more like that book - effortlessly fluently written, witty and clever without really trying. Although we don't always seem to have the same taste in books - Nicky breaks down in tears when attempting science-fiction, for example. I like science-fiction. Nick, I can tell you why you fail at sci-fi: it's because you think you have to understand everything. You don't. It's just there for the period effect, as it where. Hornby complains that he must be dim for the whole column
[...] I haven't felt so stupid since I stopped attending physics lessons aged fourteen.
Although I have a sneaking suspicion that he really thinks that sci-fi is stupid literature, but masks his dislike by putting himself down, so as to con the Polysyllabic Spree. But once or twice I could nod happily, seeing that we enjoyed the same things - admittedly not very often, given my obse... huge interest in crime fiction these past years, a genre Hornby doesn't revel in. I was extra happy then to read him praise Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. Yes Nick, you and me! We could actually, like, hold a conversation!

Why can't I write the way I want to? It's heart-breaking, so it is. This book left me itching to read more, and I'm definitely holding on to it for a good while so I can glean it for tips. Inspiring is the word I'm looking for.

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