DECEMBER 2003/JANUARY 2004

STUFF I’VE BEEN READING

A MONTHLY COLUMN

by Nick Hornby

BOOKS BOUGHT:

  • Moneyball—Michael Lewis
  • Saul and Patsy—Charles Baxter
  • Winner of the National Book Award—Jincy Willett
  • Jenny and the Jaws of Life—Jincy Willett
  • The Sirens of Titan—Kurt Vonnegut
  • True Notebooks—Mark Salzman

BOOKS READ:

  • No Name—Wilkie Collins
  • Moneyball—Michael Lewis
  • George and Sam: Autism in the Family—Charlotte Moore
  • The Sirens of Titan—Kurt Vonnegut

First, an apology. Last month, I may inadvertently have given the impression that No Name by Wilkie Collins was a lost Victorian classic (the misunderstanding may have arisen because of my loose use of the phrase “lost Victorian classic”), and that everyone should rush out and buy it. I had read over two hundred pages when I gave you my considered verdict; in fact, the last four hundred and eighteen pages nearly killed me, and I wish I were speaking figuratively. We fought, Wilkie Collins and I. We fought bitterly and with all our might, to a standstill, over a period of about three weeks, on trains and aeroplanes and by hotel swimming pools. Sometimes—usually late at night, in bed—he could put me out cold with a single paragraph; every time I got through twenty or thirty pages, it felt to me as though I’d socked him good, but it took a lot out of me, and I had to retire to my corner to wipe the blood and sweat off my reading glasses. And still he kept coming back for more. Only in the last fifty-odd pages, after I’d landed several of these blows, did old Wilkie show any signs of buckling under the assault. He was pretty tough for a man of nearly one hundred and eighty. Hats off to him. Anyway, I’m sorry for the bum steer, and readers of this column insane enough to have run down to their nearest bookstore as a result of my advice should write to the Believer, enclosing a receipt, and we will refund your $14. It has to say No Name on the ticket, though, because we weren’t born yesterday, and we’re not stumping up for your Patricia Cornwell novels. You can pay for them yourselves.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

Nick Hornby is the author of five books, most recently Songbook. He lives in north London.

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