There can be a certain melancholy to discovering writers whose work you love. Are they dead or in their prime? Sometimes dead is better, like when there’s an accessible body of work. I love Tom Wolfe, but after I found him, he’s produced a book about every 10 years it seems. Nowadays I wind my way through Michael Crichton’s enjoyable novels with a twinge of sadness at his passing, but appreciative of his productiveness.
I just found another in his prime, Nick Hornby. He’s about my age and shares certain sensibilities and pathologies [sports], but not his leftist politics. To paraphrase Chekhov’s letter to his brother, much can be forgiven to talent [as opposed to any Obama spokesperson whose epidermis I could watch being peeled with a certain level of detachment].
Book: The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
Method: Read hardcover book
What I got from the book:
- A rationale for abandoning books I can’t finish. Like Will Hunting’s psychologist, the message is, ‘it’s not your fault.’ Hornby on one particularly difficult book: “We fought bitterly over a period of 3 weeks, on trains and aeroplanes [sic Brit] and by hotel swimming pools. Sometimes he could put me out cold with a single paragraph; every time I got through 20 or 30 pages, it felt to me as though I’d socked him good, but it took a lot out of me, and I had to retire to my corner and wipe the blood off my reading glasses.”
- Hilarious idea – Cultural Fantasy Boxing League, where books square off with movies. Hornby: “The Last Supper vs. Crime and Punishment? Fydor on points. … every now and then you’d get a shock, so Back to the Future III might land a lucky punch on Rabbit, Run; but I’m still backing literature 29 out of 30.”
- Honest reflections. Hornby has an autistic son named Danny and wrote: “I don’t often read books about autism. They tend to make me feel alienated, resentful, cynical or simply baffled.”
- Hornby gives props to 2 of my favorite writers in one sentence: “Why isn’t Richard Price incredibly famous, like Tom Wolfe?” His work is properly plotted, indisputably authentic and serious-minded, and it has soul and moral authority.”
- Learned that during the Civil War, Robert Todd Lincoln’s life was saved when he had fallen onto train tracks in Jersey City. The person who saved Robert Todd’s life was the older brother of the guy who would kill the President. Wait, it gets better. So well-thought of a person was Edwin Booth, that nine months after the assassination, he returned to the stage to a standing ovation in New York City. There has long been a bronze statue of him in Gramercy Park [Cleveland’s statue is still under consideration]. But wait there’s more! On the very day Edwin Booth was buried … no, no, not gonna do it … I’m not going to tell you.
Read The Complete Polysyllabic Spree and leave the cannolli.