Alas, all good things must come to an end including vacations. It was back to work for me today. Getting up early to an alarm clock and going outside to wait for the bus in 10 degree F (-12C) darkness was not fun. The cats were not pleased to see me bundled up and walking out the door either. They looked so bereft (or maybe it was me who looked bereft?). I was going the wrong way. I was supposed to be heading to my reading chaise so they could curl up on me until lunch time. It was nice to see my coworkers though and hear about their holidays. And I can’t complain that work was super busy since the law school is on term break so there was time to catch up and get oriented and back into the swing of things. The big plus is that it is a short work week which makes things a little easier.
All that has nothing to do with More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby. It was a book I snuck in during my holiday vacation. I picked it up from the library the day after Christmas and practically devoured it. I could have read it in one day but made myself take two days.
The book is made up of Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” Believer columns from May 2010 through November/December 2011. I definitely added a few books to my TBR list, some I wouldn’t have expected to be interested in like Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste by Carl Wilson. I mean, I’ve got nothing against Celine Dion, I think she has a beautiful voice, but reading a biography about her? Turns out that while it is a biography it is also about art and taste and so much more than just Celine Dion.
Plus Nick Hornby writes so well about books. I love the way he writes about books. I don’t know really what it is. I mean, he rarely provides more than a cursory one or two sentence summary on what the book is about. He doesn’t delve into structure or plot or theme or style, though sometimes he might say something about them in passing. He talks a lot about football and makes lots of self-deprecating jokes. In fact, he spends a lot of time not really talking about books at all. But yet he still manages to leave me with a sense of what a book is about and whether or not I might like it. How does he do it?
I’ve tried to figure it out, not so I can be a Hornby clone, though that might not be such a bad thing, but so I can use his techniques to jazz up my own writing. But I remain flummoxed. He is obviously delighted and enthusiastic about reading and books but that doesn’t cover a whole column. He says some really interesting things sometimes, like when he was reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark and didn’t enjoy it as much as he expected. He thinks it was because of movies and copycat stories and notes parenthetically:
Influential books are often a disappointment, if they’re properly influential, because influence cannot guarantee the quality of the imitators, and your appetite for the original has been partially sated by its poor copies.
What a fantastic observation!
But not every essay is filled with such observations. So how does he do it? How does he make me zip through his essays and feel so darn happy and glad to be a reader? How does he make me interested in reading a biography about Celine Dion? Maybe I just need to chalk it up under the Great Unsolved Mysteries of the World column and leave it at that. Perhaps I can gradually forget about it and move on in a few weeks and then continue in forgetfulness until Hornby publishes a new book of columns and my wonderment and curiosity starts up all over again.