Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shakespeare Wrote for Money

Shakespeare Wrote for Money made me fall a little bit in love with Nick Hornby. I knew nothing about him before reading this, but for some reason I had the impression he would be rather pretentious and literary in an annoying way, like he's trying to hard. Instead, I loved it! He wasn't like that at all. This is actually what I thought I would feel about Ex Libris, which is I was really looking forward reading, and I almost took this back to the library unread. I am so glad I didn't!
Shakespeare Wrote for Money is a collection of essays from Hornby's Stuff I'm Reading column in Believer magazine. Hornby is not at all stuck up and was actually quite funny and entertaining. And he likes books that are also entertaining. They may also be literary, but he prefers the non-boring books. My favorite part of the book was when he talks about the Alex Awards, which are awarded to the top 10 books each year that were written for adults but that would appeal to young adults. In Hornby's words, they are therefore not-boring books. And shouldn't everyone want to read those? Then he rattled off some titles of his own favorite not-boring books, and he included I Capture the Castle, one of my all-time favorites.
I also enjoyed the first essay, where he talks about his desire to move to Oxford, MS, and sit on a veranda and walk to Faulkner's house. My advisor for my undergrad degree specialized in Faulkner and studied at Ole Miss, so with that and the picture of this Londoner wanting to move to Mississippi was quite funny.
The good and not-so-good part of this book was that I kept adding more and more books to my want-to-read list, which is already stuffed full at the moment. And I want to read them all RIGHT NOW. I think that's why I tend to read so many books at once, because I want to eat them all up and make sure I don't miss one and it makes me feel like I'm making more progress.
Hornby mentions a friend of his who takes a few days between finishing books to let the book sink in. I was immediately horrified - think of all the wasted time! Apparently Hornby agrees: "Those of us who read neurotically, however - to ward off boredom, and the fear of our own ignorance, and our impending deaths - can't afford the time."
I think that explains my need to read so many books at once - what if I need that random fact on page 34 of the book about the Tolkien tomorrow, and I make myself finish The Lacuna first? What if I die tomorrow without having read a word of Hilary Mantel? Shouldn't I at least start Wolf Hall so I have at least read a little bit? What if there's something better out there than the book I'm reading right now and I miss it because I'm struggling through this one? And so I end up reading 10 books at once. I have done a much better job of this so far this year though. Until last week I was limiting myself to two at once, but I couldn't seem to focus last week and kept hopping around. It's mainly non-fiction so it's not a big deal, but I'm still trying to not let myself reach double digits. It got so out of control at one point last year that I stopped to count how many books I was currently reading (and had read something of in the last six weeks) and once I reached 20 I stopped counting. I made myself sit down and go through one at a time to finish them all quickly and get that calmed down a bit. Since I finished Shakespeare Wrote for Money this morning, I'm only in the middle of three right now - Plum Bun, Enchanted (about Audrey Hepburn), and Orlando. Oh. And Inventing English. So four. I guess I got up to five yesterday, but I'm finishing Plum Bun tonight so I can review it tomorrow for the Classics Circuit and then I'll be back down to three.
Anyway, I adored Shakespeare Wrote for Money and look forward to reading many of the books he discussed and more Hornby.


  1. Wow, what a polygamist reader you are. The most I can manage is two or three at a time. :)

  2. It's not a good habit. Stick with your 2-3. :)

  3. This book was my first encounter with Hornby, and I've really enjoyed his reviews, even of books I'll never read. I'm currently his Polysyllabic Spree and loving it as well.

    Are you liking Orlando--I tried listening to it, and couldn't focus at all.

    Great post on why/what/how you read :)

  4. Jane-
    Ugh. I'm not enjoying Orlando. I think it's another reason for the multiple book reading at the moment! I keeping finding excuses not to pick it up, although I'm really not very far into it and want to give it a fair chance. I don't think I'll be posting about it for Woolf in Winter tomorrow though!