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A Spree of Syllables
on 18 February 2014
In The Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby covers a variety of books and reviews most of them in a humorous way (even when his mood is slightly sombre or his review poignant) and there are some good excerpts from some of the novels he speaks about. The writing is fluid, lucid and intelligent throughout. The only minor writing quibble was the occasional, much-detested TO BE HONEST, a phrase that should be banned along with AT THE END OF THE DAY, but it didn't really detract from my reading experience. My only real problem, and the reason it didn't leave me completely fulfilled, is that most of the reviews were for books I would never read, nor want to; biographies, literary "classics", novels set in the 1300s, etc.
Maybe that makes him better than me--probably does--because he can read a wide range of stuff and like it, but it was kind of annoying, too, because I wanted to hear his opinion on authors I like, and he only mentioned two: Richard Price and Dennis Lehane. I would have liked his thoughts on many of the other novelists I enjoy, (which, I guess, is very selfish of me) but at the same time I wasn't bored reading the reviews on books I'd never read, and I'm sure for those who like biographies and literary classics such as Ulysses, they will probably find this book fascinating.
I guess if I wanted to be pedantic, the lack of disdain dampened the book a little. I only usually read the one and two star reviews when I go on Amazon. I check them before I read a book and after. I like to hear what people hated about a book, not what they liked. I don't care what they liked, unless, of course, their opinion vibes with mine. And Hornby is too nice. I guess, because he's got a career he doesn't want to lose by down-talking other authors. Luckily, I'm not in that position. I just think it would have been better if he was more scornful throughout, because on the rare occasions he did highlight an author's stupidity, I found myself relating to him more. Maybe that's because I'm an angry person.
Anyway, if you like the type of books he reviews then buy it. If you don't, then get it from eBay and read it anyway.