Thursday, February 15, 2007

Housekeeping vs. The Dirt, pt. 1

by Nick Hornby
The Preface

I've decided today that I will begin reading the one book on my shelf that is sure to break my heart with jealousy - Nick Hornby's Housekeeping vs. The Dirt. If you will remember, this is the book that plummeted me into a pit of depression when I discovered that Hornby, a much better and more successful writer than I could ever hope to be, was doing what I'm trying to with this blog in a monthly column for "The Believer." I bought it grudgingly because reading it would be an education after all and, as an aspiring writer who's never had a thing published, well I should be in the business educating myself. So I've begun reading The Dirt and damnit so far it's great. I hate it.

I hate it not only because Hornby, a writer of whom I had promised to steer clear (I really did hate How to Be Good - really), is a much better writer than I am, or not even only because he has my dream job ("Yes, I would be paid for it, but I would be paid to write about what I would have done anyway, which is read the books I wanted to read."), but also because Hornby tells the world the message I had always thought it was my duty and destiny to impart: Reading should always be pleasurable and if it isn't you should be reading something else. Hornby writes, "...if you're reading a book that's killing you, put it down and read something else, just as you would reach for the remote if you weren't enjoying a TV program."

Not only has Hornby taken my message but - and here's the real kicker - he's inspired me. He's finally turned up the volume to the little voice inside my head, the one that I've been ignoring for the past two months, which has been telling me that I need to put Jared Diamond's Collapse down and simply walk away. Slogging through that book has been a dreadful chore. Hornby has forced me to realize that by continuing to read it, I'm merely reinforcing the despicable myth that "books should be hard work, and that unless they're hard work, they're not doing us any good." So I'm putting it down and picking up The Dirt.

I can't claim that I don't feel the sour swallow of jealousy worming its way around in my belly still but I'll get over it. Who knows, maybe I'll learn something while I'm at it.

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