4277Who doesn’t like a good book about books?

The Polysylabic Spee is a collection of essays Hornby published in the literary magazine Believer. A reader’s chronicles of books bought and read. At first I though this would be just an ok read because Horny has a very particular sense of humor and occasionally his chatty style becomes rambling. But the more I read the more I enjoyed it. Several weeks after finishing it I still find myself bringing it up in conversations.

I think I’ve only read (or even heard of, or have any desire of reading) very few of the book Hornby talks about, but it didn’t really matter. I was nodding when he gets picky about tiny inconsistencies in Notes on a Scandal even though I never read it (“Would a contemporary teenager really complain about being treated as ‘the Kunta Kinte round here’ when asked to do homework?“), enjoyed his gushing love of Dickens even tough I don’t share it, and was intrigued by his belief that for “domestic purposes” the Trivial Pursuit system of organizing books works better than Dewey. The most hilarious moment was his attempt at writing with a Freakanomics-inspired distorted logic – he starts “On the face of it, World War II and Pamela Andreson’s breasts would seem to have little in common.

There was one side of Hornby’s personality that was a joy to discover: her has no problem in admitting certain books are meant to go straight to a “permanent home on the shelves, rather than onto any sort of temporary pending pile”. He actually buys these books! Isn’t it refreshing and reassuring? Nick Hornby is an enabler.

“… all the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. (…) I don’t have the wall space or the money for all the art I would want, and my house is a shabby mess, ruined by children… 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.”

He also goes “That’s me! And you, probably! That’s us!” when reading this quote byGabriel Zaid: “…the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.”

I think we’re kindred spirits.


Other thoughts: Tony’s Reading List, things mean a lot, Stainless Steel Droppings, A Work in Progress (yours?)