Housekeeping VS. The Dirt – Nick Hornby
March 29, 2010 § 14 Comments
If you are so gripped by a book that you want to read it in the mythical single sitting, what chance has it got of making it all the way through the long march to your soul? It’ll get flushed out by something else before it’s even halfway there.
Interestingly enough, this is one of the very few books that I read in that mythical single sitting. Housekeeping VS. The Dirt is a collection of Nick Hornby’s writings/essays on the books he read. It’s a book about his reading habits, and what might have went through his mind when he was reading a particular book. Or maybe how he had come to read any given book: did a friend suggest it to him, or did he pick it up on a whim?
This isn’t a very long book, and because it’s a collection of essays, it didn’t really require me to concentrate for a huge chunk of time (which I would completely be unable to do). Hornby’s writing is witty, at times rather sarcastic, and really quite humourous. I wasn’t too chummy with his style in the beginning, but as I moved along into the book, I did warm up to him and his thoughts. He just has a way of coming across as being very honest about how he feels about a certain book, and he does it in a conversational way.
It’s almost like having a dialogue (I know it’s a monologue if I’m not doing any talking, but it did feel like a two-way conversation despite the obvious) with another book lover, someone who values reading for the joy of it, over reading because of obligation, self-education and all those other stress-related words.
It still seemed like a fun thing to do, though, writing about reading, as opposed to writing about individual books.
But he did write about books. There was one book he talked about that I found hilarious. (The way he talked about it, I mean, not the book. I’m not sure why I found it funny, but it just tickled me somehow.) Bear with me as I quote what he said about Oh the Glory of It All:
American lives seem, from this distance at least, very different from European lives. Look at this: Sean Wilsey’s mother was the daughter of an itinerant preacher. She ran away to Dallas to be a model, an escape funded initially by the nickels from her uncle’s jukeboxes and peanut machines. She was dragged off to California by her angry family, and while waitressing there she met a U.S. Air Force major who married her on a live national radio program called The Bride and Groom. She split from the major, dated Frank Sinatra for a while, married a couple of other guys – one marriage lasted six months; the other, to a trial lawyer who defended Jack Ruby, lasted three weeks. She got a TV job and she had a fan club. And then she married Sean’s dad. We don’t do any of that here. We don’t have itinerant preachers, or peanut machines, or Sinatra. We are born in, for example, Basingstoke, and then we either stay there or we move to London. That’s probably why we don’t write many memoirs.
There was another book he talked about that immediately grabbed my interest, and I went straight to put it on hold at my library. (I know, I know. My library pile is becoming increasingly difficult to control. I can’t help it.) But then, really, how does one remain immune to a penguin?
Imagine my horror, then, when I learned during Kurkov’s reading in Reykjavik that the penguin in Death and the Penguin is not like the squid or the whale, but, like, an actual penguin. The penguin really is a character, who – pull yourself together, man, which – has moods and feelings, and has an integral part in the story, and so on. And, as if the author actually wanted me to hate his novel, it’s a cute penguin, too.
Ii’m not sure if his humour gets through when I pick out passages randomly like this, but it really did make me laugh at times. And it’s funny how you don’t realise it until you’ve actually warmed to his style. When I was at about page 40, I thought this would be my only Hornby book, but as it turns out, I finished the book wanting to read The Polysyllabic Spree.
So, though I wouldn’t say I loved this book, it was very entertaining. It’s fun, stress-free, and really, just very enjoyable.
* Note: Read Sasha‘s thoughts on this book some time ago, and I’ve kept Hornby’s name on my mental list of authors till now. So it’s thanks to her that I got to know about Hornby. And now thanks to Hornby, I’ve got a few other authors on my mental list.