The Polysyllabic Spree

Published By: McSweeney's, Believer Books

Book Category: Non-Fiction,

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Reviewed by Kathy Perschmann (Librarian, Carver County, Minnesota)

Nick Hornby is the author of High Fidelity (yes, it was made into a movie with John Cusack) and About a Boy) (made into a movie with Hugh Grant), How to Be Good, and his newest book A Long Way Down.

The Polysyllabic Spree is a collection of Hornby's essays written about his book purchases and reading over a period of 14 months (from September 2003 to November 2004) for The Believer, one of those intensely quirky literate magazines based in New York. You know the kind, printed on matte paper, 4-color, with line drawing illustrations.

This is some of the most hysterically funny writing about books and reading I have ever read. Hornby's heroic struggle with Wilkie Collins' No Name in his Dec. 2003–Jan. 2004 column is described in great detail. He loved the first 200 pages, and based upon that, had recommended it in a previous column. However, he was totally unprepared for the next 418 pages. No Name was one of those Dickens-era serialized novels, and I guess Collins was reluctant to end it.

Hornby found it hard to feel sympathy for a heroine who might just have to go out and work—gasp! as a governess or something else equally horrible, if her evil relatives did succeed in stealing her inheritance. "Wilkie would point out that I unwisely attempted to read the second half of No Name during a trip to L.A. Has anyone ever attempted a Victorian novel in Los Angeles, and if so, why?" says Hornby.

Hornby's journey with books in The Polysyllabic Spree is one of the discoveries of unusually wonderful books, and he includes a few excerpts in this volume.

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