Results tagged “Nick Hornby” from kwc blog

It seems a bit hackneyed to complain that a collection of original short stories is uneven at best. We don't expect every author to be firing on all cylinders with their contributions. However, with a unifying theme of "Thrilling Tales," with Michael Chabon editing and with short stories by Neil Gaiman, Nick Hornby, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, and Dave Eggers, I had higher expectations. It is strange, then, that it was none of these authors that delivered my favorite stories of the collection. That title would go to Glen David Gold's "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter," Rick Moody's "The Albertine Notes," and Elmore Leonard's "How Carlos Webster Changed His Name to Carl and Became a Famous Oklahoma Lawman." I thought Gaiman's and Hornby's were entertaining, but not great, King's was only interesting to Dark Tower fan, Chabon's was only an introductory chapter of a serial, and Egger's, while good, is burgeoning with the "epiphanic dew" that Chabon rants against in the collection's introduction. The collection has a sequal, Astonishing Tales, which I may pick up, but with more selective reading.

Book: Polysyllabic Spree

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The premise of this book was too good to pass up: an author I like (Nick Hornby) writing essays for a publisher I like (McSweeneys) about a dilemma I can relate to (the disparity between books bought and books read).

Hornby's voice provided a sympathetic harmony to my own viewpoints on book purchasing, selecting which book to read next, and the unintentional connections one finds. I've often compared selecting which book to read next to wine tasting: you can move freely between the whites, and sometimes you can follow a red wine with an even stronger red wine, but there reaches a saturation point where you can't really discern the taste anymore. For the full-bodied reds I need a good palette cleanser (e.g. Pratchett, Sedaris, King), a bit of mental floss to get the polysyllabic words out of the teeth.

Hornby has a slightly different food comparison (p. 44):

I'm beginning to see that our appetite for books is the same as our appetite for food, that our brain tells us when we need the literary equivalent of salads, or chocolate, or meat and potatoes. When I read Moneyball, it was because I wanted something quick and light after the 32-oz steak of No Name; The Sirens of Titan wasn't a reaction against George and Sam, but a way of enhancing it. So what's that? Mustard? MSG? A brandy? It went down a treat anyway.

Also, being Hornby, the music comparison was inevitable (p. 101):

There's no rule that says one's reading has to be tonally consistent. I can't help but feel, however, that my reading has been all over the place this month. The Invisible Woman and Y: The Last Man were opposites in just about every way you can imagine; they even had opposite titles. A woman you can't see versus a guy whose mere existence attracts the world's attention. Does this matter? I suspect it might. I was once asked to DJ at a New Yorker party, and the guy who was looking after me (in other words, the guy who was actually playing the records) wouldn't let me choose the music I wanted because he said I wasn't paying enough attention to the beats per minute: according to him, you can't have a differential of more than, I don't know, twenty bpm between records. At the time, I thought this was a stupid idea, but there is a possibility that it might apply to reading. The Invisible Woman is pacy and engrossing, but it's no graphic novel, and reading Tomalin's book after The Last Man was like playing John Lee Hooker after the Chemical Brothers -- in my opinion, John Lee Hooker is the greater artist, but he's in no hurry, is he?

As much fun as I've had finding quotes in Hornby's book, though, in some ways I feel too attached to his opinion to fully enjoy it. It's only appropriate, I think, that I found this quote to express this sentiment (p. 66):

Twice this week I have been sent manuscripts of books that remind their editors, according to their covering letters, of my writing. Like a lot of writers, I can't really stand my own writing, in the same way that I don't really like my own cooking. And, just as when I go out to eat, I tend not to order my signature dish -- an overcooked and overspiced meat-stewy thing containing something inappropriate, like tinned peaches, and a side order of undercooked and flavorless vegetables -- I really don't wan tot read anything that I could have come up with at my own computer.

disclaimer: in no way do I think I could produce Hornby's writing, but for me the same applies to ideological agreement as literary agreement.

More quotes in the extended.