Stuff I’ve Been Reading

A monthly column

by Nick Hornby

BOOKS BOUGHT:

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad—Jennifer Egan
  • Norwood—Charles Portis
  • Out Stealing Horses—Per Petterson
  • The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America—Don Lattin
  • Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball—Stefan Kanfer
  • Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty—Tony Hoagland

BOOKS READ:

  • Marry Me: A Romance—John Updike
  • The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry—Jon Ronson
  • Friday Night Lights—H. G. Bissinger
  • My Name Is Mina—David Almond

I first and last read John Updike when I was in my twenties: I devoured all the Rabbit books that had been published at that point, and looked forward to a time in my life when I would be old enough to understand them. All that adultery and misery and ambition and guilt looked completely thrilling back then, but mystifying, too. Where did it all come from? And why, aged twenty-five, was I not grown up enough to be experiencing any of it? What was wrong with me? I suspect I didn’t read any more of Updike’s novels after that point simply because they made me feel inadequate, in ways that I hadn’t previously considered. New forms of inadequacy I could live without, seeing as I didn’t know what to do with the ones I was already aware of.

I’m not quite sure why an unread copy of Marry Me winked at me from my bookshelves just before I flew to the U.S. for a work trip recently. On the cover of the book, Paul Theroux promises us that “Updike has never written better of the woe that is marriage,” but I can assure you (and my wife) that it wasn’t the cheery blurb that lured me in. Perhaps I wanted to test myself again, a quarter of a century after the last time: Had I got any closer to adulthood? Would I now, finally, be able to see a reflection of my own domestic circumstances?

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 lives in North London.


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