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Housekeeping vs. the Dirt

by Nick Hornby

Series: Believer Columns (2)

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8113120,974 (3.92)74
Fourteen months of Hornby's warm, incisive, and hilarious chronicles of the books he buys and the books he reads.In this latest collection of essays following 'The Polysyllabic Spree,' critic and author Nick Hornby continues the feverish survey of his swollen bookshelves, offering a funny, intelligent, and unblinkered account of the stuff he's been reading. Ranging from the middlebrow to the highbrow (with unrepenting dips into the lowbrow), Hornby's dispatches from his nightstand table serve as useful guides to contemporary letters, with revelations on contemporary culture, the intellectual scene, and English football, in equal measure.… (more)
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collection of columns on books read, orig printed in Believer
  ritaer | Aug 7, 2021 |
“Housekeeping vs. the Dirt,” published in 2006, is another in a series of collections of Nick Hornby's delightful columns printed monthly, or almost monthly, in Believer. That his column does not appear every month is something of a running joke in these columns, which ran from February 2005 to June/July 2006. From time to time Hornby comments about being suspended by the magazine's editors for making negative comments about the books he reviews. They supposedly tolerate only positive reviews. Yet Hornby's comments about the magazine, his editors and himself are often so fanciful that one doesn't always know what should be believed. Only when writing about books and literature in general does his commentary seem sincere and trustworthy.

At the top of each column Hornby lists both the books bought that month (although he also includes books given to him) and the books read that month. Then he writes about the books he read in a stew of an essay that mixes in other commentary, as well.

He reads quite a variety of books, mostly in the middle range between the high-brow and low-brow extremes and mostly contemporary books. Yet he does comment on Voltaire's “Candide,” G.K. Chesterton's “The Man Who Was Thursday” and Robert Warren's “All the King's Men,” each a classic from years gone by. Naturally the commentary that most interests me is that about books I've read and appreciated, such as Jess Walter's “Citizen Vince,” Marilynne Robinson's “Gilead,” Michael Frayn's “”Spies” and “The Trick of It” and Tom Perrotta's “Little Children.” He likes them, too, and one believes that his positive reviews are not just the result of some edict from Believer editors.

Hornby's book also includes a few brief excerpts from books he reviews that may entice readers to try them even if his reviews do not.

Hornby is himself a novelist, the author of such books as “About a Boy” and “A Long Way Down.”

If you think books reviews have to be stuffy, read Hornby's columns and think again. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Nov 26, 2020 |
Housekeeping vs. the Dirt was one of the first books I ever added to my Amazon wish list oh so many years ago. Now I've finally read it!

Essentially a list of all the books he bought and read over a 17 month period, it's almost shocking to me that I have only read one of them (Into the Wild). Despite my unfamiliarity with the material, I really enjoyed reading Hornby's take on all of these works.

Although Hornby isn't my favorite all-time author, he is the author who's writing I most enjoy to read. (I feel like he'd like to twist that sentiment right around at me.)

Not the kind of collection I'd ever revisit, but I chuckled out loud (COL) a few times and now I have a few more books to add the the old TBR. ( )
  sublunarie | Aug 11, 2019 |
Hornby reads. You read. ( )
  Fiddleback_ | Dec 17, 2018 |
I gave Hornby's first collection of critical essays, The Polysyllabic Spree, 5 stars because I thought it was excellent. Well-written and hysterically funny, he writes about books like he's a book lover, not a critic. I liked it so much I went immediately to McSweeney's website and bought the next three collections. This is the second book and takes place pretty much where The Polysyllabic Spree leaves off.

Here's the problem: I like this one even better. At the risk of blowing what little meaning ratings have, I sort of need another 1/2 star to add to the 5 I've already given it.

The 14 essays contained in Housekeeping vs. the Dirt are the same format as The Polysyllabic Spree - a list of books bought, books read, and a chatty narrative about his thoughts on those reads. But this time the essays are even smoother, like Hornby found his groove at this point. Also, and I'm sure it's not coincidental to my added enjoyment, he had titles on his list that I've actually read (although he doesn't discuss any of them in this book). He includes 4 excerpts from the books he read and loved, and one of them I've added to my own list (Assassination Vacation).

It's going to be hard putting off diving directly into the next collection, but I'm trying to pace myself to string out the pleasure as long as I can. If you think you might enjoy critical essays that aren't very critical and have a bit of fun at the expense of pretentiousness, I definitely recommend giving Hornby's essays a try. ( )
  murderbydeath | Nov 5, 2016 |
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Fourteen months of Hornby's warm, incisive, and hilarious chronicles of the books he buys and the books he reads.In this latest collection of essays following 'The Polysyllabic Spree,' critic and author Nick Hornby continues the feverish survey of his swollen bookshelves, offering a funny, intelligent, and unblinkered account of the stuff he's been reading. Ranging from the middlebrow to the highbrow (with unrepenting dips into the lowbrow), Hornby's dispatches from his nightstand table serve as useful guides to contemporary letters, with revelations on contemporary culture, the intellectual scene, and English football, in equal measure.

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