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.)