STUFF I’VE BEEN READING

A MONTHLY COLUMN

by Nick Hornby

BOOKS BOUGHT:

  • A Little History of the World—Ernst Gombrich
  • What Good Are the Arts?—John Carey
  • What I Loved—Siri Hustvedt
  • Death and the Penguin—Andrey Kurkov

BOOKS READ:

  • The Trick of It—Michael Frayn
  • Housekeeping—Marilynne Robinson
  • Over Tumbled Graves—Jess Walter
  • Unnameable comedy thriller—Anonymous

On my copy of Michael Frayn’s The Trick of It, there is a quote from Anthony Burgess that describes the novel as “one of the few books I have read in the last year that has provoked laughter.” Initially, it’s a blurb that works in just the way the publishers intended. Great, you think. Burgess must have read a lot of books; and both the quote itself and your knowledge of the great man suggest that he wouldn’t have chuckled at many of them. So if The Trick of It wriggled its way through that forbidding exterior to the Burgess sense of humor, it must be absolutely hilarious, right? But then you start to wonder just how trustworthy Burgess would have been on the subject of comedy. What, for example, would have been his favorite bit of Jackass: The Movie? (Burgess died in 1993, so sadly we will never know.) What was his most cherished Three Stooges sketch? His favorite Seinfeld character? His top David Brent moment? And after careful contemplation, your confidence in his comic judgment starts to feel a little misplaced: there is a good chance, you suspect, that Anthony Burgess would have steadfastly refused even to smile at many of the things that have ever made you chortle uncontrollably.

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, most recently, of a novel titled A Long Way Down.

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