I’ve been reading Nick Hornby’s absurdly titled (intentionally so) The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, which someone reviewed in the ODT recently. It’s a collection of his columns for some magazine called The Believer (a rather pretentious magazine, if Hornby’s comments are anything to go by), and they are by stages hilarious, intriguing (in that you want to read everything, practically, that he’s read), detailed, annoying (there’s often too little detail, and he demands a wider reading habit than even I’ve got), and very quotable. Not that I’m going to quote anything at the moment, but I probably will.
Like me, he’s realised that a reading life doesn’t require you to read books just because people ‘who know’ say you should; nor does it require you to finish every book you start. Consequently I have never finished that dreary Booker Prize lump of lead called ‘the bone people’ (the pretentious, if I may be allowed to re-use the word, use of non-capitals marks it out as important – it isn’t). Equally I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that a book I’m supposed to be reviewing called Just Who Does He Think He Is? by George Webby, is going to go the way of unfinished books. I am sick of people writing about their lives and telling me when and how they masturbated and seeming to think this is somehow important. It isn’t. 100% of men have masturbated in their youth, either because they thought they should, because they just wanted to, because it seemed a good idea at the time, because they couldn’t help it, because if they didn’t all their friends would somehow know – or they have not masturbated, either because they were convinced they shouldn’t, or because they didn’t want to, or because it never seemed that great an idea, or because they were perfectly able to help, or because they didn’t give a toss (if you’ll excuse the pun) what their friends thought.
I couldn’t care less about Webby’s sexual life. I thought the book was about what he did in the theatre, which to me would be much more interesting. (It may eventually be, if he ever gets there.) Nor do I care that he thinks he knows more about religion than God. He doesn’t, so why doesn’t he keep his trap shut on the subject? And how is it that he gives his father a mere two pages of existence – almost as an afterthought when he realises he’s hardly mentioned the bloke (who fathered ten children in the family) – and prats on about his mother endlessly? Did his father have no life or character? He must have had something to have lived in a house with Webby and the other siblings, all of whom (except the one who died young) go almost entirely unmentioned.
Well, there we are: I’ve practically written the review already, and I haven’t even got past page 65.