Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bathing with Nick Hornby

MORE BATHS, LESS TALKING (Stuff I've Been Reading #4)
Nick Hornby
Believer Books
$14.00 trade paper, available now

Reviewed by Richard, 4* of five

The Publisher Says: “Read what you enjoy, not what bores you,” Nick Hornby tells us. That simple, liberating, and indispensable directive animates each installment of the celebrated critic and author’s monthly column in the Believer. In this delightful and never-musty tour of his reading life, Hornby tells us not just what to read, but how to read.

Whether tackling a dismayingly bulky biography of Dickens while his children destroy something in the next room, or getting sucked into a serious assessment of Celine Dion during an intensely fought soccer match featuring his beloved Arsenal, or devouring an entire series of children’s books while on vacation, Hornby’s reviews are rich, witty, and occasionally madcap. These essays capture the joy and ire, the despair and exhilaration of the book-lover’s life, and will appeal equally to both monocle-wearing salonnieres and people, like him, who spend a lot of time thinking about Miley Cyrus’s next role.

My Review: What fun. What a perfect way to smile and wile a few hours away. What a terrible thing to do to myself, read a book of a book-lover’s book review columns. By dint of the most severe self-talk imaginable, I held myself to requesting one—ONE—book from the liberry after reading Hornby's review of same.

A biography. Of Charles Dickens.

Yes, that's right, Nick Hornby the Book Incubus, the Boy-Siren, has convinced me, the arch-hater of Chuckles the Dick, to eat his turnips and read a book about the horrid bore. If I'm honest, which depressingly enough I am, I must say that Claire Tomalin's disparagement of several of the Great Satan's novels played a large part in my willingness to put myself through this misery.

So if you don't know me at all, let me assure you that there are several jaws now being scraped off of floors on several continents and a selection of islands. Hornby? He got the goods, my man, he got the goods if he can convince Richard to read about Dickens.

And he does. Hornby's mix of personal life, professional writing career, and lifelong reader-of-stories is perfect for a grazing read, pieces of just the right length to amuse without burdening the pleasure-seeking reader with interesting but useless information. His sharp eye for the way books work, what makes Novel X miss where Novel O works brilliantly, and why biographies only ever get fatter and fatter as a person's life is serially biographized, and how history could be improved by thinning the cast...well, all that's so much a part of his observed world that it's merely the scaffolding he hangs funny, wise, glib, snarky sentences on.

Fourteen bucks retail. Worth every one of 'em, too.

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