- Paperback: 230 pages
- Publisher: McSweeney's, Believer Books (Nov. 30 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1932416242
- ISBN-13: 978-1932416244
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 222 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #723,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man's Struggle with the Monthly Tide of the Books He's Bought and the Books He's Been Meaning to Read Paperback – Nov 30 2004
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About the Author
Nick Hornby is the best-selling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, How to Be Good, Fever Pitch, and Songbook. He lives in London.
Top customer reviews
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But I'm happy to say that I was pleasantly pleased with this book.
The Polysyllabic Spree is a collection of Hornby columns from when he wrote for a magazine in the UK. The premise of each essay, and indeed the book, is that Hornby was writing about his constant battle to read as many books as he bought. But it would seem that the tide of books bought and/or given to him continually won out over the volume of books he was able to read. A pain I know all to well since there always seems to be more books than I'm capable of reading.
What I liked about the series of essays is that Hornby did a good job of explaining why he read the books he did, and why he abandoned (or didn't like) the books he did. And of course he managed to do it with his trademark humour.
All in all I enjoyed this book.
The answers are, I think, pretty straightforward. The books we've forgotten still made an impression on us, settled somewhere in the corners of our minds like, um, mold. And why do the work? We do the work for the rewards, and Hornby knows that too. He puts a logical, personal weight into these mini-reviews, giving the reader solid reasons to read (or consider leaving aside) a book. A book of stories strikes a good balance for being "literary in the sense that they're serious, and will probably be nominated for prizes, but they're unliterary in the sense that they could end up mattering to people." Or, "We are never allowed to forget that some books are badly written; we should remember that sometimes they're badly read, too." It's as unpretentious and straightforward as a friend's advice in a pub, so it gathers a little of that trustworthiness as well.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
In his column Hornby discusses what he's read during the month, how he came to read or buy the books he did, how the books under discussion relate to one another. In the course of writing about his reading life Hornby hits on any number of topics: the dampening effect of parenthood on one's reading; his experience watching an unwitting stranger read his book poolside; Anton Chekhov's unfortunate use of sappy endearments--"little ginger-haired doggie," "my dearest chaffinch"--in letters to his wife ("For god's sake, pull yourself together, man! You're a major cultural figure!"); the surprising similarity between reading and, well, being the leader of the free world:
"Being a reader is sort of like being president, except reading involves fewer state dinners, usually. You have this agenda you want to get through, but you get distracted by life events, e.g., books arriving in the mail/World War III, and you are temporarily deflected from your chosen path."
Hornby's tone in his essays is conversational, his observations often witty. The book is most interesting, inevitably, when Hornby's reading life intersects with one's own, but familiarity with the books he discusses is not necessary to one's enjoyment. (I fear I've read regrettably few of the books on his lists.) One comes away from The Polysyllabic Spree liking Hornby and appreciating his regular-guy take on the highbrow world of letters.
Reviewed by Debra Hamel, author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece
"Oh, man, I hate Amazon reviews. Even the nice ones, who say nice things. They're bastards, too."
You know what's more fun than writing about great books? Reading a great book about reading good books and writing, written by a great (and a personal favorite) writer. Three of his columns in particular were genius. In one he describes a boxing match between various forms of cultural entertainment, and why--usually--books win. The second is about Dickens and the glory of long and descriptive Victorian literature against the stark "good" writing of contemporary times. Third is his definitions of "finger-steepling" (more artsy, profound books) and "rubber sharks" (exciting, interesting books), and the need for books/readers to do both. More than just some great recommendations (of which there are plenty to be had), Hornby's book delves into what it means to be a reader, what books mean to us, the delights of both junk and literature, the undeniable urge and pleasure of reading them and buying them (and stacking them in one's closet). Always, Hornby's writing is down-to-earth, intelligent, fun, humorous, and human. It's like sitting down with a friend to talk books. Grade: A
The title would suggest a word riot, which THE POLYSYLLABIC SPREE is, but it is also the name Hornby puts to the murkily protean powers that be at "The Believer Magazine" where the book was born in monthly columns. Each month's chapter begins like an entry in Bridget Jones's Diary, books bought, books actually read, then leaps off into what happened, what he actually read, what he thought about it, how it connects (and sometimes does not, like when one's football team is on the television) to life. Hornby is very funny, and also very serious. He is also full of contagious, unabashed wonder. He is quick to skewer pretension or gratuitous content. His style is highly caffeinated and raspy from nicotine, hilariously hyperbolic one moment, piercingly specific the next. He is willing to say he is wrong or doesn't know. He keeps it all about our mutual love of reading, but divulges other insights along the way, like what it's like to be the dad of an autistic child, to become a father for the third time, to try unsuccessfully to quit smoking, to be a writer amongst all the reading, the parenting and everything else going on.
The proceeds of this book go to charity. How can you not like this guy?