At about the same time that A Striped Armchair was posting a quote from one of the earlier articles, I was on the third last. Sub-titled ‘The Diary of an Occasionally Exasperated But Ever Hopeful Reader’, it’s a collection of articles that Hornby wrote for The Believer not on books but on reading. Every month he detailed books bought and read, every now and then with a break or the inclusion of an extract from one of the few books he managed to read between sports television and shuddering with fear and bemusement at the cultish and entirely fictitious rituals of his editors.
I love reading about reading; why people choose books and why they don’t. I think I share a taste in a lot of things with Hornby, even with his aversion to SF&F. Most liberating of all I found his descriptions of wearing out books, accidentally and deliberately buying more copies, re-discovering books when cleaning up, and that overloaded reluctance and apathy we all sink into sometimes.
Apart from laughing and smiling and making all sorts of scenes in public by reading out the juicy bits to those sitting and trying to write or read themselves, the book has lowered my mood considerately. I’m never that eloquent when I talk about books, and even if I’m one of those impossible adults he mentions towards the end (one of us who wasn’t alive to see the live moon landing) I can’t help but feel clumsy and awkward and lacking in finesse.
I’m also down about the fact that I’ve just spent a few hours enjoying and agreeing completely with his discussions on the nature of reading and transitioning between books of differing subject matter and tone, only to turn back to my incomplete list of A-to-Z books and think in my head, why? Why did I think that merely meeting a basic requirement for a challenge would be fun? It hasn’t made me read more than I usually do (perhaps I’m reading less now I have guilt over all the Cs I want to read this week), just upload more reviews about books half chosen in delight and half in obligation. I feel dirty. I’ve enjoyed reading nearly all the books in the list so far, and those I didn’t enjoy I was indeed planning to read anyway, but… I can feel a deep reader’s guilt sinking into my heart.
I loved reading about Hornby’s reading and books. I’d like to have his bookshelves for my own(and maybe his wife, though I could pass on the smoking habit and the offspring). I’m not really that sad after reading it, either, just a bit guilty feeling about piddling my time away on memes and challenges instead of doing what really matters – reading! The Polysyllabic Spree is fun to read, and comes in tasty short article size for those of you who prefer to do your reading while commuting or on the bog, collected into one complete volume for those of you who prefer to read during meetings, university lectures and family dinners.
This is perhaps one of the least structured reviews I’ve ever written. I have rambled and posed a little bit, but rambling and silly posing is a very good way to quantify what I loved about The Polysyllabic Spree. If you’re interested in picking up a copy for yourself, keep in mind that there is a shorter version and complete version out there; one has about a year and a bit’s worth of articles, the other has the entire collection.
Other reviews at:
Savvy Verse and Wit (I think it’s the longer version but not certain)
A final interesting note is that when one goes looking for reviews on this book, the search results tend to show reviews of books that Hornby mentioned within The Polysyllabic Spree rather than of the Spree itself.