Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt

See, a few years ago while Nick Hornby was having his head shaved, the barber taunted the young woman who worked next to him into admitting that the only writer she could name was Enid Blyton. Hornby disingenuously uses this anecdote and a study that found that more than 40 percent of all adults never read a book, let alone manage to cough up the name of a favorite author, to launch an attack on writers who clearly do not have these particular adults in mind as an audience when they write. Evidently bright people who happen to lack a literature degree are so stymied by writers writing about highly articulate people that Hornby feels the need to cry "Elitism!" and call for quotas. And anyway, it's cheating to write about smart people when you're smart, and the most gifted writers write about dumb people and are accordingly sought out by "infrequent book-buyers."

I know quite a few people took umbrage over Hornby's remarks a few months back, that people shouldn't attempt difficult novels if they weren't enjoying them, and maybe some of them were also upset with him over his call for literary writers to stop being so literary as well--I'd tuned out by then since I'd enjoyed The Polysyllabic Spree so much and fully intended to read the next collection.

Now I understand the irritation. Last night, given the opportunity, I would have gladly slapped Hornby in the face--and I do hope that action would have been lowbrow and inarticulate enough to suit him. I'll probably eventually finish this one since it's short, but for now, it's going back on the shelf. I'm not in the mood for Hornby's kind of cute.


  1. You go, girl -- slap him upside of his newly shaved pate.

    You know, if James Joyce had read Hornby's books, he probably would've thought them non-lit-uh-ary.

  2. You wouldn't have to be a James Joyce to think that. It's obvious that Hornby wants to align himself with the very smart who write for the very dumb, although it wouldn't be good marketing for him to come right out and admit it. I'm coming over to the Hornby's-an-ass side of the fence very rapidly and it makes me sad since I enjoyed the first batch of columns a lot.

    I wonder what Ian McEwan thought of Hornby's attempt to psychoanalyze him. . .


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