Helene Hanff Portrait Update.
Not your typical cozy British village.

Last of its kind.

For years Nick Hornby wrote a column in The Believer magazine about his monthly reading habits; in each column he would list the books he bought that month, the books he read (and those two lists seldom corresponded), and then shared his thoughts about what he was reading. Because he is British, he also somehow managed to work tidbits about the soccer matches he was watching into every column.* Previously, two books collecting his monthly pieces had been published, titled The Polysyllabic Spree and Housekeeping vs. the Dirt. Both were highly enjoyable reads.

Shakespeare So it's no surprise that Hornby's gone back to the well one last time, and published his last collection of Believer columns under the title Shakespeare Wrote for Money. (Subtitled: Two Years of Reading Begat by More Reading, Presented in Easily Digestible, Utterly Hysterical Monthly Installments.) And it truly is the last of its kind, as Hornby has stopped writing his column for the magazine (as of September 2008).

I don't know why he's stopping, but one guess is because, like anything else, it feels like the column has run its course. Although this was a very enjoyable read, I just don't think I enjoyed it the same way I enjoyed the first two books. Although this volume does have a hilarious introduction by Sarah Vowell, proving to me that I do like Sarah Vowell, just in small doses, and flashes of hilarity are still there, it just doesn't have that kick. Also, Hornby continues the Believer's policy of not sharing the titles of books he really disliked, which bugged me in the first and second volumes and continues to bug me, because I think it's dishonest.

But I'd still recommend it. For one thing, in this volume, Hornby discovers the entire genre of YA fiction, and is shocked by how much he loves it, and it's always fun to watch a passionate reader discover a new love (he read such books as M.T. Anderson's Feed and David Almond's Skellig, although I'm disappointed he never made it to John Green's Looking for Alaska). For another, parts of it are still just very, very good:

"I recently discovered that when my friend Mary has finished a book, she won't start another for a couple of days--she wants to give her most recent reading experience a little more time to breathe, before it's suffocated by the next. This makes sense, and it's an entirely laudable policy, I think. Those of us who read neurotically, however--to ward off boredom, and the fear of our own ignorance, and our impending deaths--can't afford the time." (p. 97.)

I hope you get some time this weekend for yourself, to read neurotically. Have a happy Fourth, everyone.

*The lust for soccer is one of the few attributes of the British soul that I don't understand. I have this theory that soccer is how Britons relase their aggression, just like I believe hockey is an outlet for Canadians, and Americans have, you know, handguns and shopping in Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving.