Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, Final

by Nick Hornby
McSweeney's / Nov. 2006

I have a confession to make: I finished Housekeeping vs. the Dirt last weekend. Well, not last weekend but the weekend before that – the weekend of April 20. Yeah, that long ago. I’ve been meaning to write this review, really I have, but first I was in Seattle, then I was back and needed to rest, and then I planned to write it at work but forgot the book, and then...yeah, you’re not buying it, but it’s all true I promise you. In any case, onwards to Housekeeping vs. the Dirt.

The title of this slim collection does double duty. On the one hand, there’s the obvious, surface meaning. Housekeeping versus the dirt: one either engages in some housekeeping – cleaning out the corners, bleaching down the kitchen floors – or one accepts the reality of the dirt which will inevitably creep in. The second, is a play of words on two books Hornby reviews: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (“deep, and dark, and rich”), and – you guessed it - The Dirt by Mötley Crüe (“so grotesque are the characters and narrative events described in the Mötley Crüe book that it’s very difficult to see any ideal circumstance in which to read it”). I must admit it was a fun moment when I discovered this second, subversive meaning hidden within the book, the final piece to a puzzle I didn’t even know was missing.

Hornby was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for Songbook (something else that’s been added to my TBR list) but I’d bet money that the kind of criticism he writes in Songbook is something more than a little different from what he writes in Housekeeping vs. the Dirt. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but Housekeeping spends much less time discussing the merits of the books which appear in his column than he does discussing his own reading life. He discusses the things we talk about everyday on the blogospheare: why he chose a book, how he chose a book, under what circumstances he read that book. He even has a list of the books he buys and reads each month at the beginning of each selection. In short, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt is the best blog you've ever read printed on paper.

I had fun reading this collection, despite my sharp feelings of jelousy (one day, I will be able to write like this - I will). I enjoyed this book because Hornby was obviously enjoying himself, even when he was throwing a book across the room in disgust. At 153 pages, I was sad to see this brief volume end. Until I remembered, that is, that he writes a still-running monthly column for The Believer. They may have just gained a devoted reader.

In "October 2005," Hornby writes:

There comes a point in life, it seems to me, where you have to decide whether you're a Person of Letters or merely someone who loves books, and I'm beginning to see that the book lovers have more fun. Persons of Letters have to read things like Candide or they're a few letters short of the whole alphabet; book lovers, meanwhile, can read whatever they fancy.

...and thank god for that, especially when you get to read things like Housekeeping vs. the Dirt.

For my previous posts on Housekeeping vs. the Dirt click here and here.