Friday, December 18, 2009

The Polysllabic Spree

Earlier this week I received in the mail a copy of Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree: A Collection of Fourteen Months of His Essays From the Believer Magazine, which I had won from A Bookshelf Monstrosity. This will be the second set of Hornby's book reviews that I've read, although it was published earlier than Shakespeare Wrote for Money, which led me to the absolutely wonderful 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, which is definitely the best book I read in 2009. I expect no less from this collection!

Reading reviews is akin to reading short stories. Both genres provide bite-sized morsels for the brief time I have before dinner to read, or while waiting for a kid to find all his/her gear before we head out someplace, or when I need closure quickly. Sometimes I think I write short stories and reviews because of the need for closure.

Reading the September 2003 chapter reminded me that I haven't yet read anything by J.D. Salinger, and that's a real shame that I should rectify. Maybe I can find a challenge into which this goal could fit. Maybe I should start one...The Shame Challenge: read one work by an author you should've read eons ago.

Hornby also mentioned Pompeii, one of my favorite novels by a contemporary author, Robert Harris. He mentioned that Harris, who by the way is his brother-in-law, "read just about every book there is on volcanology and Roman water systems, as well as every word Pliny wrote, so my admiration for my sister has increased even further. Has she been sitting there listening to stuff about Roman water systems for the last three years?"

That made me laugh out loud. It also made me remember a missed opportunity. About two months after I finished Pompeii, our family went to Los Angeles for spring break and visited the Getty Villa in Malibu. The night before we were due to arrive, the Getty Villa hosted a lecture on Roman water systems. I almost changed all of plans so that we could make it to the lecture, but then discovered that no more tickets were available anyway. Oh well...maybe I'll plan better next time!

On the upside, there's a movie version of Pompeii in the works for 2011. Maybe I'll get to the Getty Villa lecture before then.


  1. I've read several Hornby's but never his reviews. He always makes me laugh out loud while reading...not an easy task with me ...I'm rather demanding! Last summer, for instance, I was reading his latest novel, SLAM, and laughing out alone on the beach in Ischia (not far form Pompei!). Thanks Jane for sharing. Now I absolutely want to get his Shakespeare wrote for money" and "The Polysyllabic Spree"!

  2. Oh, I like the idea of reading something that gives me "bite sized morsels" that I can work into the little spaces of reading time!

  3. Glad your book safely arrived. I hope you enjoy. BTW, I also really enjoyed Pompeii.

  4. I really enjoyed The Polysyllabic Spree -- those short essays are addicting. I like the idea of a Shame Challenge -- for me, I would read Margaret Atwood, finally!