Culture Catchup #3: "Ten Years in the Tub," and my ginormous Nick Hornby man-crush

I kinda wanted to open this post by asking, “Where has Nick Hornby been all my life,” but the answer—in England, mostly—is pretty obvious. And, it’s not, like, all my life, since he’s only been publishing books since 1992, when I was in my, um, late-late-late adolescence.

But nevertheless, that “where has he been” feeling kind of aligns with the GINORMOUS MAN CRUSH I’ve had for Nick Hornby since I started reading “10 Years in the Tub,” a collection of his books columns for the magazine, “The Believer.” (According to Mr. Hornby, I shouldn’t feel too bad for not even really knowing that “The Believer” existed, because that doesn’t make me any more ignorant than billions of other earth folk.)

I’ll just insert here that one of the unfortunate side effects of my GINORMOUS MAN CRUSH on Nick Hornby is that once or twice a day, I’ll hear Mike Myers, in character as Austin Powers, inside my head asking, “Do I make you Hornby?” Sadly, I’m not making that up. I don’t even like those movies.

So, I know I’m an ass for never reading Mr. Hornby before, although I think he’d be pretty understanding about it, since eliminating guilt from the reading list is one of Mr. Hornby’s—oh, hell, let’s drop the formalities, this isn’t the New York Times—since eliminating guilt from the reading list is one of Nicky-boy’s frequent touchstones.

Read what you like, and blow off those who would shame you into reading unenjoyable stuff because it’s “good for you,” that’s our Nicky-Nick.

Good ol’ Nickums.

I have vague memories of two dear departed friends ages ago both urging me to read the Nickster, and then getting into a beery disagreement with each other over the reasons I should. Agreeing in principle I should read Dear Nick, but vehemently disagreeing on the particulars as to why. I could be manufacturing that out of memory fragments real and imagined, but it could also be true, as anyone who knew those friends will understand.

Here’s the thing about reading Nick’s “10 Years in the Tub:” I started feeling sad about finishing it on, like, page 5 of its 800-plus pages. I savor each column-length chapter like a delicious morsel of chocolate.

Here’s another thing that made me sad about how happy I am to have finally “hooked up” with Nicky-poo: it’s so freaking obvious that a huge chunk of the people who read him will feel exactly the same way I do. In other words, I’m not special. In other words, I’m just another one of the fan-boys or -girls that Joey Nickels probably spends an increasing chunk of his waking hours trying to avoid.

Poor Nickly. That’s what happens when you write prose that reads the same way butter melts in your mouth. Except letting butter melt in your mouth doesn’t make you laugh and feel smart. Also, reading Nicksy-wick is not literally like reading butter. I won’t be responsible for what happens if you put butter in your eyes. (Unless it winds up erasing all of your annoying crows feet and laugh lines, in which case let me know. Then watch this space for a post announcing the launch of my new EyeButter™ line of bio-ceuticals.)

This fanboy/girl effect was proved to me by the response I got from my mother-in-law when I sent her an email thanking her for the book and telling her how much I was enjoying it. She said, in so many words, “Oh, yeah, you read Nicky-Nick and you just think, Wouldn’t he be great to have a beer with?”

Oh, really? So, you, too? Hands off, bitch, he’s mine. I don’t care who came out of your womb.

But you see what I mean? To read Sweet Nick is to love him.

Even more, for me, is that to read Nicksy-poo makes me want to write, in the same way that seeing a great band in a club makes me want to go home and work on my music. I’ve always felt like my creativity is a vessel that can only hold so much consumed inspiration. If I read, watch or listen to too much, the excess forms a wax-like plug at the top of the vessel. In fact, I feel like a wax-like plug has formed at the top of this metaphor, trapping me—and you, on the off chance one of you has made it this far—inside.

At any rate, Nicksums (this is getting challenging) quickly fills my vessel to the “time to go create” line. Not too many other writers do that in quite the same way.

Unfortunately, there’s a strong urge to emulate, too. Nickers’s writing is so deceptively natural, easy and conversational that, yes, he makes me want to go write, but he makes me want to go write exactly like him. Which is not cool.

Nonetheless, I’m indulging myself by shamelessly ripping off Nikki Nixx throughout this post.

Because, you guys (note the hopeful plural), he does so many little things that I love and relate to and like to do in my own writing. Like writing as if it’s just the two of you kickin’ it, just havin’ a conversation. And writing discursively, while still being, um, cursive enough to create an overall sense unity to each piece.

Oh! And in “10 Years in the Tub,” he has this little running gag based on a throwaway reference to the Polyphonic Spree. The Polyphonic Spree! From Dallas! He knows who they are! And bases a running gag—running as in 10 years running—on them. Who else would do that? No one. How cool is my Lil Nicky?

I don’t know where he’s been all my life, but I’m pretty sure Laddo Nick will be hanging around on my bedside table long after I finish “10 Years in the Tub.”