Mar 3, 2008

Housekeeping Vs the Dirt

by Nick Hornby

Being "Fourteen months of massively witty adventures in reading chronicled by the National Book Critics Circle finalist for criticism". Need I say more? I love reading what Nick Hornby says about books and the reading experience, although some reviews have made me dubious of reading his actual fiction. I found that I related more to Housekeeping vs the Dirt than its predecessor, The Polysyllabic Spree, perhaps because he mentioned more American works, and I have either heard of, read or want to read about a third of what was discussed. So it was nice to be able to relate more directly, and not just in the general sense of being a book lover.

I have heard much of In Cold Blood, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Then We Came to the End. I've read some works by Barthelme, too. Hornby has convinced me that I really ought to read more, also Ian McEwan. He's also validated A's appreciation of "Sopranos" and "The Wire", reiterated my puzzlement over people who sell books on Amazon for a penny (or several pennies), and convinced me that I am quite outside the normal realm. After all, I am a person who would read a book after the kids are in bed and the dishes shelved (p. 14) and also one likely to pick up a book on peregrine migration patterns (p.50). Hornby also happens to mention my sister's favorite artist, Jack Vettriano, and talks about Into the Wild. This is a book I've read recently, so I was eager to see what was said, but it didn't come until the end. I did sit on my impatience and wait until I arrived there in due time, although A. said why do that? it's not as if the book's written chronologically. But I did!

Oh, and I must have better eyesight than I thought. Even though I wear glasses for astigmatism headaches, I managed to read the small print line without a magnifying glass. It was horrifically disgusting, and A. laughed when I paraphrased it to him!

Quoted in this book are selected excerpts from Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation, Jess Walter's Citizen Vince, Jennie Erdal's Ghosting and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis (a graphic novel). All in all, an astonishing good and funny collection of words on reading.

Rating: 5/5                   Published: 2006, pp 153

Read another review at: In Spring it is the Dawn


  1. I'm so glad you finally got to read it!
    I like the part about how his books cycle from the bedside table to the bookshelf in the hall, to his kids pulling them off the shelves for entertainment, to his picking them up and discovering them again and returning them to the bedside table.

  2. This sounds so good! But I have to read The Polysyllabic Spree first.

    I've read some of his fiction and I enjoyed it a lot. High Fidelity in special.

  3. Anonymous3/04/2008

    I have yet to try Nick Hornby and have no idea what I'll think of him. I didn't even know he wrote non-fiction as well :-)

  4. Hmmm-I didn't realize that Hornby wrote such works (outside of his fiction anyway). I'm curious why you are "dubious" of his fiction. I really enjoyed his High Fidelity.

  5. Bybee- I liked that part about the books' cycle and his children's influence on his reading habits, too.

    Nymeth- I don't think you neccesarily have to read the Spree first. The two books don't really address each other, even though they're on the same subject.

    Verbivore- when I was first given Hornby's Polysyllabic Spree, I had not idea he wrote fiction, and thought he was just a literary critic!

    Trish- I just tried to go back and find that blog review which was negative of his fiction, and can't locate it! It made an impression on me, but I ought to try reading his fiction myself and make my own opinion. I think the premises sounded really far-fetched to me, too, almost bordering on ridiculous.

  6. I too was able to read that sentence without a magnifying glass but it did take a bit of squinting! ;)

  7. Tanabata- I read so many other blog posts about people pulling out magnifying glasses in regards to that sentence, I was expecting to do it myself!


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