TBR: Housekeeping Vs. The Dirt

I picked up this book in the library because of the title.  As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m mildly obsessed with how people think about housework (as opposed to being obsessed with doing it, which I’m clearly not).  And then I saw it was by Nick Hornby, and figured that it was worth reading.

Well, the book has nothing to do with housekeeping.  It’s about books.  Specifically, the full title is Housekeeping vs. The Dirt: Fourteen Months of Massively Witty Adventures in reading.  It’s a compilation of Hornby’s columns for the Believer, in which he lists the books he’s bought in the past month, what he’s actually read, and chats a bit about them.  And to pad the book out (it’s still only 150 pages), there are excerpts from a few of the books that he discussed and particularly liked.

It’s great fun.  I’ve suspected from reading Hornby’s novels that he’d be great fun to hang out in a bar with, but now I think he’d rise onto my short list of people I’d want to be stuck on an elevator with.  I’ve read a few of the books he discusses, but have never heard of at least half of them. He makes me want to read most of them, but doesn’t make me feel guilty for not having done so.  (And in fact, in the preface, he makes a passionate case for reading books that you think you’ll like, not books that you think you ought to read, or worse, books that other people think you ought to read.)  And he freely admits to buying books and then never quite getting around to reading them.

And Hornby’s got a sense of humor that appeals to me (although the recurring joke about the editors at The Believer censoring his columns wears thin).  He writes about hunting down a book that he thinks his son will enjoy "only to be repaid with a soul-crushing enthusiasm, when I would have infinitely preferred a polite, mild and temporary interest.  Needless to say, I won’t be taking that sort of trouble again."  In discussing Candide, he notes that "if ever anyone lived in an age that had no need for a savage debunking of optimism, it is us.  We believe that everything everywhere is awful, all the time.  In fact, Voltaire was one of the people who first pointed it out, and he was so successful that we find ourselves in desperate need of a Pangloss in our lives."

So, in honor of Hornby, what stuff have I been reading?  Well, Harry Potter, for one.  I bought it Saturday afternoon and finished it over the weekend, mostly by staying up far later than I should have.  I have to admit that I kept reading in part because I wanted to know how it ended, but mostly because I wanted to be able to hang out with my blog friends and hear what they thought of it.  And I’m in the middle of an excellent mystery called Case Histories that I had never heard of, but found on the book swap shelf at work .

(I just noticed that Hornby actually mentions Case Histories, but all he says about it is that it’s set on streets where he used to live.)

7 Responses to “TBR: Housekeeping Vs. The Dirt”

  1. merseydotes Says:

    I am dying to talk about Harry Potter. When is it safe without getting torn down in flames?
    I confess that I’ve never read a Nick Hornby novel, but I like the idea of this book as it would give me a chance to “get to know him” in a pretty short book. And also, I like reading what other people think about books even if I haven’t read them. (Which is why I enjoy TBR!)

  2. jen Says:

    I LOVED Case Histories. It falls in that genre-busting category I’ve become quite enamored with, of using one genre to tell the story of another. (In my mind Case Histories is masquerading as a mystery when in fact it is a novel about grief, and overcoming childhood trauma.) In this sense it reminded me of The Time Traveler’s Wife … supposedly a sci fi book that is actually a book about dealing with chronic illness.

  3. Jackie Says:

    I love Nick Hornby! He would definitely be one of the people I’d invite to a dinner party, if I could. I like his taste, his voice, his sense of humor, and the way he thinks about culture. I like all his novels too, though “About a Boy” is my least favorite.

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    I think it’s fine to talk about HP in clearly labeled spoiler threads. Phantom’s got a busy one going (linked to in the post). Or just post to your blog, but put the spoilers in the comments so people have to click through to read them.
    I finished Case Histories. Wow.
    I’d recommend both this book and Nick Hornby’s novels, but they’re quite different. Somewhere in this book, he’s a bit snarky about writers whose characters are writers or academics and think and write pretty much like the writer and his friends. Well, most of Hornby’s main characters are young men, not particularly intellectual, who haven’t quite grown up yet. (John Cusack starred in the movie of High Fidelity, and it was a great casting.) So I think I was expecting Hornby himself to be like that, but he’s not.

  5. Susan Says:

    I loved Case Histories, too! Kate Atkinson is a great writer. She has a book that follows Case Histories, with Jackson Brodie and Julia as characters, but it isn’t really related other than that. It is called One Good Turn, and I didn’t think it was nearly as good. Emotionally Weird, on the other hand, also by Atkinson, is really good.

  6. Genevieve Says:

    I just read Housekeeping vs. The Dirt a couple of weeks ago. (I knew it was a book of his columns from the Believer, b/c I’d read the first one, which I also recommend. Unfortunately, can’t remember the name of the first book.) About halfway through this one, I realized that one of the books he talked about was Housekeeping and another was The Dirt.
    I very much liked Kate Atkinson’s earlier novels, Human Croquet and Behind The Scenes at The Museum. I have some short stories of her that I can’t seem to get through. I should just drop them (as per Nick Hornby’s recommendation, which I love – giving yourself express permission not to finish books that aren’t doing it for you) and move on to Case Histories.

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    Genevieve, thanks for explaining the title. It seems so obvious now, but I totally missed it.

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