David's Reviews > Shakespeare Wrote for Money

Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby
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's review
Dec 23, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: disappointing, read-in-2008
Read in December, 2008

What did I learn from this book? That even Nick Hornby, an author I generally quite like, is capable of PHONING IT IN, in truly shameless fashion.

If, like me, you chose this book because you really enjoyed its predecessor, "The Polysyllabic Spree", prepare to be disappointed. If I didn't like Hornby so much, this would be a candidate for the "intellectual con artist at work" shelf. Though the real culprits might be the McSweeneys/Believer posse. Who apparently see no problem in subtitling this volume "two years of reading begat by more reading, presented in easily digestible, utterly hysterical monthly installments". Naively, one might expect somewhere around two dozen such installments. What they fail to mention is that there are actually only 15, two of which have nothing to do with books. It appears that Hornby's relationship with his employers at "The Believer" was in more or less consistent decline over the period in question, so much so that he was suspended on several occasions, resulting in one 5-month hiatus, and several briefer one-month suspensions (these resulted in combined March/April type installments, the standard 7 pages long).

The material that is included is interesting enough, though there is a much higher proportion of general 'the dog ate my homework' kind of waffling, with correspondingly less space devoted to Hornby's thoughts and insights about books he actually read. Personally, I didn't find the seven-page justification of why he read no books at all during the month of the World Cup particularly interesting; just as his views on The Simpsons Movie left me cold. It would have been interesting to hear the gory details of his rift with "The Believer", but these are not forthcoming, though he does mutter obliquely about ongoing censorship and repeated exhortations to be nicer about the books he discusses. There are occasional titillating references to the byzantine hierarchy of relationships within the McSweeneys fortress, and of being forbidden to write about certain books based on who was currently boffing whom, but the juicy details are disappointingly absent.

The time gaps and his obviously waning interest in the project take their toll. There is very little continuity, and most of the books featured in the "books bought" columns are never discussed at all.

With fewer than 100 pages of material actually devoted to books, the $14 price tag and misleading representation of the book's content seem like an impudence on McSweeneys' part. Hornby surely deserves some of the blame as well.

A real disappointment.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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David And I'd like to think I'm not quite the censorious priggish dickhead that reading that review might have you believe. But then again, nobody was dictating it to me. So maybe I am.

Bottom line: there was way too little of the good stuff that makes us love Nick Hornby. So I was pissed off when I wrote it.

Brian DiMattia Honestly, I've always thought the "dog ate my homework' kind of waffling" was amongst the most charming parts of his writing, and what elevated his writing above standard "book reviews."

Adam You missed that the "suspensions" are all jokes.

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