Melora's Reviews > The Polysyllabic Spree

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
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's review
Jul 08, 11

really liked it
Read from July 07 to 08, 2011

An impulse purchase after seeing a quotation from it somewhere, probably Facebook,and I really enjoyed it! Short essays about books and reading. I'd hardly heard of any of the books he talked about, and mostly they weren't the sort of books I like (I did add one of his recommendations, The Invisible Woman, by Claire Tomalin, to my list), but his reviews were entertaining and his writing about his reading and family life were very funny! Here are some favorite passages, which give an idea of his style...

"I don't want anyone writing in to point out that I spend too much money on books, many of which I will never read. I know that already. I certainly intend to read all of them, more of less. My intentions are good. Anyway, it's my money. And I'll bet you do it too."

(discussing the length of a Dickens novel, which, while not "spare," Hornby finds quite reasonable)
"But there comes a point in the writing process when a novelist -- any novelist, even a great one -- has to accept that what he is doing is keeping one end of a book away from the other, filling up pages, in the hope that these pages will move, provoke, and entertain a reader."

"But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not."

(from a review of A Life in Letters, by Anton Chekov...)
"As a special bonus, you also get some of those bad biopic comedy moments thrown in. "I went to see Lev Tolstoy the day before yesterday," he writes to Gorky. "He was full of praise for you, and said you were a 'splendid writer.' He likes your 'The Fair' and "In the Steppe,' but not 'Malva.'" You just know that there's only three words in this letter Gorky would have registered, and that he spent the rest of the day too depressed to get out of bed."

Oh, and he says Gosse's Father and Son is good, but that it took him a long time to decide to read it because he thought it would be depressing. Father and Son has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for years for exactly that reason, but Hornby's description, including, "OK, sometimes it reads like that Monty Python sketch about the Yorkshiremen, constantly trying to trump each other's stories of deprivation ("You lived in a hole in the road? You were lucky!") inspired me to move it from the back of the "to read" line to a front row shelf. That is persuasive writing!
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