Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby

There's something about Nick Hornby's writing, particularly his columns in The Believer, that is addictively readable. Of course, to some degree, what I'm doing on this site is a cheap, less intelligent, less funny imitation of the Believer column that Hornby has done for the last five or so years. But in both the latest collection, Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and the first one, The Polysyllabic Spree, Hornby cast a spell that had me poring through the books over the course of a single day. Granted, they're not very long books, but still, I'm not that kind of reader. I read for an hour, I put the book down and do something relatively productive, I pick it up again later in the day and read for half an hour, etc. With Hornby's books, however, I just can't stop. Last night, I was reading Shakespeare Wrote for Money in bed, put it down and fell asleep, then woke up for a bathroom run a couple of hours later and couldn't keep myself from opening the book and finishing it right then.

I think what makes Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading" column so compelling, is the pure pleasure and excitement he gets from books. It's an excitement I share and, I assume, many others share (or why would his column be popular enough to assemble into collections?). His lack of pretension in the column contributes to the excitement. It's something I've tried to do and, I think, failed at. Of course this is made even worse by the fact that I don't have the intellectual prowess to back any sort of pretension up. It's a bit of a double whammy, but I'll keep on trying and maybe one day I'll reach Hornby-like status. Maybe.

Edited to add: The good folks at McSweeney's have pointed out that this is actually Hornby's third book of "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns. I somehow forgot about the second of the bunch, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt. Shame on me.

Edited again to add: Okay, honestly, no one from McSweeney's reads this blog. I was actually lying in bed this morning between snooze hits and I remembered that there was another book. Double shame on me.

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