Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Shakespeare Wrote for Money, by Nick Hornby – reviewed

This came from the McSweeney’s Book Club at a good time for me. I’ve been writing a lot of reviews lately, both here and elsewhere, and I’ve started to get a bit self-conscious about them. I got it into my head that it was best to be totally objective, to aim for apparent omniscience, to try to ignore my own reading experience in order to provide a more balanced view. Clearly I’ve never gone very far in that direction, but the thought that I should had been nagging at me a bit.

So it was great to read this book of columns, and find a very respectable literary figure talking about books in just the way I like to, writing about them in context; in the context of his life, of other books he’s reading, and of books he’s not reading. Obviously talent-wise I’m a million miles away from Nick Hornby, but that shouldn’t stop me from trying to learn from his example.

I remember reading Fever Pitch in a single night (in a bedsit in Lille while on a year as a teaching assistant) and this book was just as more-ish. It arrived in the morning and I finished it before bedtime. Hornby’s observations on books are highly entertaining, and at times even quietly inspiring. It made a good companion piece to Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader, a book I read a couple of weeks before this one, and one which Hornby coincidentally has some kind words for in here.

This book has certainly made me want to read more of the magazine the columns come from. In my heart I know the Believer is pretty much a Sunday supplement on fancy paper, but fancy paper counts for a lot with me. I hate having inky fingers.

Shakespeare Wrote for Money, by Nick Hornby. McSweeney’s, pb, 132pp.

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