Tag Archives: Nick Hornby


The Believer (magazine)

The Believer (magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree – Nick Hornby  (read in February  2010)

I’ve waited at least three years for this book and when I came across it at the Book Lounge  I pounced on it, and bought it immediately.  Whenever I visit the Book Lounge I find an extraordinary book that is just marvellous.  It’s because they stock literary books that the chain-stores don’t keep.

I enjoy books about books and this one did not disappoint: in fact I devoured it in two-and-a-half days, leapt on line to Takealot.com and ordered the second volume of Hornby’s book reviews without turning a hair – can’t wait to read it.  I made happy lists of NH’s Books Read in my own notebook ,so I can trawl the Libraries for his reads.  I’m thrilled that he shares my enthusiasm for Gilead and I want to read Marilyn Robinson’s second novel.  Hornby admits he buys books, piles them round the house and doesn’t always read them. Sounds very familiar – it’s a good thing we don’t share the same living space!

I had fun on the Internet looking up Nick Hornby – he’s a busy boy; apart from writing very successful novels, he writes articles about sport, rock music and also  writes book reviews. He has cleverly turned his passions into a rewarding career. His novel About a Boy  has been filmed, starring Hugh Grant, and I loved it

I Googled The Believer which NH writes for; it’s an American literary magazine for which  NH’s book diaries were written, and formed the basis for Polysyllabic Spree.   He’s irreverent, erudite, funny, has catholic reading tastes, and he loves Dickens.  Note to self: read more Dickens.  P.S. Novelist Robert Harris is NH’s brother-in-law.


Filed under BOOK REVIEWS


D is for:,  Desert Island books, Diaries,  Dickens,  Dictionaries, Dirty Books 

Desert Island books: Remember the old radio show Desert Island Discs? I think there was a book version too. The very idea of having to choose only one book to last me for who knows how many weeks? months? years ? (I mean, look at Robinson Crusoe!) fills me with angst. What to take? Something huge and voluminous (and probably dull) to last for ages? Like Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell, for instance (weighing in at 800+ pages), or The Museum of Innocence (728 pages), or maybe Shantaram (934 pages;at least they were entertaining pages, on the whole).Then there’s the Collected Works of Wm Shakespeare. No, I think not. Maybe an omnibus edition of a good crime writer?  But what do you do when you’ve read it once and know whodunnit?  Perhaps a bumper book of The Times Crosswords? No, no, I’ve got it: now’s the chance to tackle something you’ve always meant to do/wanted to do, and never found the time. So how about Teach yourself Mandarin?   Or Trigonometry for Beginners ?  AAArrgggh! It’s all too much. Time for a cold shower and a lie down.


Diaries:  Does anybody still keep a diary, I wonder?  Time was when everybody of any consequence was a diarist, ranging from Winston Churchill to Noel Coward. I have on my bookshelf The Assassin’s Cloak , edited by Irene & Alan Taylor, a fascinating day by day selection of entries from the famous & notorious. Entries for 1 January include the entries of Samuel Pepys, James Boswell, Sir Walter Scott, Adrian Mole (!),and  Katherine Mansfield who writes pettishly: what a vile little diary! But I am determined to keep it this year. We can all identify with Katherine M, I’m sure. I know nowadays people are journaling, blogging and tweeting the minutiae of their lives. But I do notice that the stationers and booksellers still offer diaries for sale, ranging from nice My Barbie pink diaries to solemn, leather-covered, devotional day by day diaries. Time will tell.

Dickens:  Hands up anybody who has read a Dickens novel that wasn’t a school set-book? Yes. I thought so. The only person voluntarily reading Dickens seems to be British novelist Nick Hornby, who admits to a passion for Dickens. I keep buying Dickens novels on charity book sales, because I’ve always meant  to read Nicholas Nickleby or Dombey & Son and duly influenced by Nick Hornby’s recommendations, I add the tomes to my To Be Read Pile. Where they remain. Luckily tucked away in a cupboard, so at least they are not gathering dust.

Dictionaries:  During a clear-out when elderly friends moved to a retirement home, I inherited their Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in two volumes. And mightily useful it has been. The onionskin paper, the dense, tiny black type, the cut-out alphabetic index heading up each section is exactly what a dictionary ought to be. I’m not comfortable with on-line dictionaries, crammed full of peculiar American spelling. As Churchill dryly observed “The English and the Americans have everything in common, barring the English language.”

Dirty Books :  No, not that sort of dirty book, although I must confess to discovering my father’s hidden copy of Peyton Place, and devouring the rude bits, which – in light of today’s fiction – was milk & cookies tame … but not for the early 50’s, it wasn’t. No, I mean books that are physically dirty. Like a recent library book: one of TV star, Dr Phil’s books, which was so dirty that after about 6 pages I closed it, and washed my hands with Dettol, picked the book up with my braai-tongs, popped it into a plastic bag and returned it to the Library, before I got infected with some awful disease –  cholera, or typhoid, or rabies, or something.  That library book had not only been thoroughly read, finger-licking page after page, but the plastic cover was sticky and grimy, the pages were creased with wear and tear, and stained and gritty. Ugghhh.


Filed under BOOK REVIEWS