Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (Believer Books 2004)

I know I'm wrong about this book, because everyone else in the world, including writers I love, think it's fantastic, but it Wasn't For Me. It's brilliantly written, I can see that much, and it made me think, too. But mostly I thought about why I don't know anyone like the people Fox writes about. Why are all my friends so dim and unreflective? Where did I go wrong?

Toward the end of the book, Otto and Sophie, the central couple, go to stay in their holiday home. Sophie opens the door to the house, and is immediately reminded of a friend, an artist who used to visit them there; she thinks about him for a page or so. The reason she's thinking about him is that she's staring at something he loved, a vinegar bottle shaped like a bunch of grapes. The reason she's staring at the bottle is because it's in pieces. And the reason it's in pieces is because someone has broken in and trashed the place, a fact we only discover when Sophie has snapped out of her reverie. At this point, I realized with some regret that not only could I never write a literary novel, but I couldn't even be a character in a literary novel. I can only imagine myself, or any character I created, saying, "shit! Some bastard has trashed the house!" No rumination about artist friends - just a lot of cursing, and maybe some empty threats of violence.

1 comment:

Darren said...

page 26

Hornby reviewing Paula Fox's 1970 novel, Desperate Characters.