The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2013

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NOV 2013 Issue

Ten Years in the Tub

Nick Hornby
Ten Years in the Tub: Collected Columns: 2003-2013
(McSweeney’s Believer Books, 2013)

If you’re a ravenous Nick Hornby fan and/or a card-carrying Believer subscriber, you might already have every issue that his “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column appears in, and maybe you’re thinking that you don’t need this book. Fine. Just don’t come crying to me when your significant other dumps you and you’ve destroyed your neat stack of magazines, desperately searching for that one book he’d said made him happiest (The Wonder Bread Summer, by Jessica Anya Blau, but that’s all the help you’re getting).

Or perhaps you’re thinking: Hey, I read book reviews. I’m reading one right now! Who’s Nick Hornby? I can get recommendations for whatever ails me right here.

Perhaps, but how often has a book reviewer justified your deviances and all-around slackerish occupations, in addition to pushing you toward great books? As Hornby says: “If you haven’t wasted huge chunks of your life on art, booze and soft drugs, then you’ve wasted huge chunks of your life, and we don’t want you around here.”

The rest of you, stick around for similar life lessons, and note that this is the kind of book you’ll want to keep close, bedside, or in the bathroom, for whenever any sudden pangs of literary need strike. Hornby talks a lot about such pangs—the varied, erratic reasons we pick up a book, and the journeys that lead us to those reasons. In one case, Hornby’s journey toward a biography of the Band comes from seeing one of his favorite guitarists perform a cover of “Ain’t No More Came.” This leads to his having “a fit on the Band,” compulsively re-listening to their box set, then finding a forgotten bio on his shelf. In another case, the pang comes on like a food craving: “I was in need of some Dickensian nutrition…I’ve been sucking on the bones of pared-down writing for too long.” Sometimes, the journey is internal, and wells up while book-browsing: “Surely we all occasionally buy books because of a daydream we’re having—a little fantasy about the people we might turn into one day, when our lives are different.”

I wondered at the title over the course of the book, as reading in the tub is only alluded to twice, by my count. There’s more reading by hotel pools, in bed, and in front of the TV, during the World Cup. But once I was well into the addictive groove of Hornby’s hilarious observations and familiar, conversational tone, it occurred to me that reading this book was like steeping in a warm bath with a funny, bookish pal. Eh? A Jacuzzi, then. It’s an enjoyable and fairly mindless experience (really, he’s doing all the thinking), but one that catches up to you later with fond, mindful reflections of the time you spent getting pruney with Hornby. It’s an experience any book lover will appreciate (soft drugs or not), and one you’ll want to dip back into often.


Leslie Fierro

Leslie Fierro is a culture blogger and a contributor to the Zinester's Guide to NYC. She is currently working on her zine-to-novel novel at The New School.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2013

All Issues