maanantai 21. marraskuuta 2011
Nick Hornby: The Complete Polysyllabic Spree
Nick Hornby's The Complete Polysyllabic Spree is The Diary of an Occasionally Exasperated But Ever Hopeful Reader. The book is a collection of columns, written for a literary magazine, The Believer, in 2003 - 2004. Basically, it's Hornby's personal reading log where he lists the books he's bought and read each month and writes something - inevitably humorous - about them.
Reading about someone else's reading might sound a bit boring, but since it's Nick Hornby, who has a reputation of being both funny and entertaining, I naturally expected the book to make me laugh and entertain me. Plus I was hoping to get a few good book tips along the way.
Unfortunately the humour of the book just didn't work for me. The writing was witty and clever, yes. It's interesting to read what Hornby has to say about some of the other contemporary British and American authors (and not all of the things he says are very nice, by the way). But I didn't burst into any giggles or chuckles or anything like that...
The book was entertaining enough to read, although Hornby's lists of "what I read this month" were not that interesting for a Finnish reader. Almost all the books he reads (and I do mean something like 99%) are by British and American authors. I think there were only one or two books during his entire year of reading that were translated into English from another language! And I thought I was limited when it comes to genres and authors! ;)
I know that Finland is somewhat of an exception when it comes to the share of translated literature vs. literature written in Finnish, but I'm still a bit shocked at the small number of non-Anglo-American authors that someone who calls themselves an active reader and literary person reads. The full list of books that Hornby read during the year and wrote about in The Polysyllabic Spree can be seen here.
Inevitably, the fact that many of the books were written by British or American authors who are not that widely known also meant that there were quite a few that I've never heard of. So one of my expectations for this book was fulfilled in that I got some interesting book tips. For example, Hornby makes Amanda Eyre Ward's novel, How To Be Lost, sound like a must-read: melancholy, wry, apparently (but only apparently) artless, perched on the balls of its feet and ready to jump either towards humour or towards heartbreak, with no run-up and no effort.
Also, Hornby has convinced me to finally read something by Marilynne Robinson. I've read a lot of positive things about her books from other blogs, but still haven't touched any of her books. Hornby's praise leaves no doubt: Marilynne Robinson is one of America's greatest living writers, and certainly there's no one else like her. I think I am using that phrase literally: I have never come across a mind like this one, in literature or anywhere else, for that matter.
Nick Hornby: The Complete Polysyllabic Spree. The Diary of an Occasionally Exasperated But Ever Hopeful Reader. Penguin. 2007. 278 pages.
Wikipedia: The Polysyllabic Spree
Wikipedia: Nick Hornby