Housekeeping Vs. the Dirt

Housekeeping Vs. the Dirt

Book - 2006
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Fourteen months of Hornby's warm, incisive, and hilarious chronicles of the books he buys and the books he reads.In this latest collection of essays following 'The Polysyllabic Spree,' critic and author Nick Hornby continues the feverish survey of his swollen bookshelves, offering a funny, intelligent, and unblinkered account of the stuff he's been reading. Ranging from the middlebrow to the highbrow (with unrepenting dips into the lowbrow), Hornby's dispatches from his nightstand table serve as useful guides to contemporary letters, with revelations on contemporary culture, the intellectual scene, and English football, in equal measure.
Publisher: San Francisco, CA : Beliver Books/ McSweeney's ; c2006.
ISBN: 9781932416596
1932416595
Branch Call Number: 813.609 H814
813/.609 22
Characteristics: 153 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.

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g
gorneaux
Oct 24, 2015

I am mad about these books. Mad. This book is the second of the four slim volumes collecting Nick Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns from The Believer litmag, and like the others (The Polysyllabic Spree, Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and More Baths Less Talking) it's unputdownable mind-candy.

Each month's column begins with two lists: Books Bought and Books Read. Hornby (author of High Fidelity, Juliet, Naked and many others) ostensibly chronicles his struggle to keep up with his ever growing piles of books. (One of the other volumes is subtitled "Notes from the Reading Life of a Celebrated Author Locked in a Battle with Football, Family and Time Itself.") But Hornby is really concerned with the multipronged joy of reading, when you're reading the right thing. "Read what you enjoy, not what bores you,” he says, and the sense of engagement and vital importance as he takes on Flaubert, Dickens, Dennis Lehane, sports biographies, books about Khrushchev's planned economy, psychoanalysis, the lives of poets and Saturday Night Live, filtered through his trademark wit, unpretentious brilliance, and cheeky—very English—self-deprecation, are like crack. I dare you to read just one of these columns at a time. I'll admit to getting fidgety, almost physically ill as I wait for the next collection to come out.

What you get with Hornby are asides that seem taken from his fiction but are (usually, at least) windups to the next book under discussion.

"If you are reading this in the U.S., the presumption over here in the U.K. is that you have either just come out of a session with your shrink or you’re just about to go into one, and for reasons best known to ourselves, we disapprove—in the same way that we disapprove of the way you sign up for twelve-step programs at the drop of a hat, just because you’re getting through a bottle of vodka every evening after work and throwing up in the street on the way home. 'That’s just life,' we say.'Deal with it.' (To which you’d probably reply, 'We are dealing with it! That’s why we’ve signed up for a twelve-step program!' So we’d go, 'Well, deal with it in a less self-absorbed way.' By which we mean, 'Don’t deal with it at all! Grin and bear it!' But then, what do what do we know? We're smashed out of our skulls most of the time.)"

After a couple of pages of this, Hornby is suddenly telling you about Who Is It That Can Tell Me How I Am?: The Journal of a Psychotherapist by Jane Haynes which, to his surprise, he finds "gripping and moving." If he doesn't care for a book, though, rather than slagging it at length, he'll just toss it and talk about Arsenal's chances of winning the FA Cup. Or go to the pub, listen to some great band, and tell you about it next month.

After each month's column you'll have a list of books you simply must go buy. You'll read everything with more zest and élan, and feel better about life.

The collections can be read in any order, but The Polysyllabic Spree, the first of them, does explain Hornby's admittedly unhealthy obsession with his San Francisco editors at The Believer, "all dressed in white robes and smiling maniacally, sort of like a literary equivalent of the Polyphonic Spree."

a
augsburgerin
Oct 20, 2015

Reading and book reviews have never been this much fun.

m
modestgoddess
Feb 10, 2013

I just love how Nick Hornby writes about reading and books. It's like sitting having a joe and a gab with a smart witty friend.

meterpartin442 Jan 08, 2013

Laugh out loud hysterically funny .>

k
kalio
Jul 13, 2009

This second collection of Nick Hornby's essays from Britain's Believer magazine begin with an impassioned plea: If you don't like what you're reading, put it down! It's excellent advice, but you won't be tempted to apply it to Hornby's book. Hornby goes on to chronicle the books he buys and the books he reads, and is his usual witty and wise self along the way. There's one more collection of Hornby's Believer columns, 2009's Shakespeare Wrote for Money.

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