The Complete Polysyllabic Spree

I’ve been reading Nick Hornby’s Believer column as compiled into this book, and it’s really fun to read (contrary to most literary critiques). There’ve been critical works by Hornby popping up at Bras Basah, such as 31 songs, and this one, which critiques books (nicely. The people at The Believer do not pay for snarks). I have pretty much the rest of his oeuvre – How to be good, About a boy, High Fidelity (still in print!), A long way down, Fever Pitch, Juliet Naked. He is one of my favourite authors, and some of my favourites are About a boy (Yay! Hugh Grant) and High Fidelity, which I also have in Italian (thank you mingsee), and Juliet Naked, which is really good. It’s interesting to see what one of your favourite authors reads, where he gets his inspiration from and what he thinks of other authors. Surely the books that he thinks are great must be pretty up there, or so I am going to find out. Two books that he has read and reviewed favourably are:
1) Julie Orringer: How to breathe underwater, which is going for $23.40 in Kino, but you have to pre-order it so they can ship it here in 3 weeks. It’s a collection of short stories pithily written with apparently fresh, gripping settings. Available at $9.90 on Kindle, but it is the sort of book I think I’d want the hard copy for. We’ll see if I can find it at other indie bookstores. I feel bad for not having finished the David Lodge I bought prior to this, and the other books my friends have given me.

Unlike most people I know, I actually intend to read the books I buy. Completely. I’ve read nearly 99% of the books on my shelf. And I read fast (not carelessly, just fast), faster than the average person anyway, so it’s easier for me to read all the books I buy than other bibliophiles with little self-control over their purse strings when they step into a bookstore. This means that I still do feel bad if I haven’t finished reading books, and go out and buy more books. The only books I don’t really feel bad not finishing are the free ones I get on Amazon – if I didn’t spend any money on it it doesn’t really count, and some of those authors should pay me to read their books instead of the other way round.

2) Donald Barthelme: Sixty Stories. It is a penguin classic, so hopefully I can find it for cheap in some lesser bookstore. But Kino doesn’t carry it on the shelf either (it has to be pre-ordered), which is somewhat disappointing and does not bode well for other bookstore chains. The paperback edition with the beautifully designed cover is going for $43.80, hefty by all standards considering the really great books I’ve bought over the years in the states were almost uniformly <$10, especially if I bought them second-hand. The books at bras basah are $2.50 apop, (I almost never buy them in single copies, which are priced at $2.90. Two for $5, and its too easy to find pairs of books that you want there), and that was where I recently acquired The complete polysyllabic spree, as well as his 31 songs. The polysyllabic spree is a pretty clean copy that still has its $18.80 Kino price tag on it.

Interesting fact I didn't know: Jesus doesn't get possessive "'s"s just because of who He is. Weird huh? I.e. saying things like 'Jesus's robes' or 'Jesus' hands' are grammatically incorrect. This factoid harks from Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which was apparently a best-seller in Britain for awhile. I can’t imagine why. Another gobbet found in the book (quoting Cyril Connolly's Enemies of Promise) that I endorse enthusiastically is

“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.”

I think one of the main motivations behind this statement is that children are essentially a good reality kick in the behind. You suddenly become acutely aware of moderately mundane, very unrestful, totally uncreative things such as diaper changing, spit ups, wailing in the night, bills, grades, diaper rash, pureed bananas. Your hormones also start acting up when you think your child is the best thing that happened to the universe, ranking behind the collected works of Mr Dickens and the poetry of Roger McGough. Kids make you lose your marbles like that. And what great literature/art could one hope to produce with this unnecessary evil?



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