Saturday, July 23, 2011

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

I love Nick Hornby. I will read anything by Nick Hornby. This, I must admit, is not my favorite of his novels. Luckily, even a mediocre Nick Hornby book is still pretty good.

Duncan is obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a singer-songwriter who turned his back on the world in the 80's, while on tour to publicize his biggest hit. Annie has been Duncan's default girlfriend ever since they both moved to a depressing seaside town where nothing much happens. When a new Tucker Crowe recording turns up, Duncan, Annie and Tucker all confront the limbo they've been trapped in for the past 15 years, with varying results.

Nick Hornby is really great at this kind of writing. He writes women sympathetically; his men are openly flawed. Music is generally the backdrop, and often a kid appears to keep everyone focused. This book has all of these elements, plus a couple of difficult girlfriends to keep the ball rolling.

One thing I missed in this novel was the soundtrack. Tucker Crowe is fictional, and while his genre of music is easy to classify, I couldn't hear his music in my head, since, well, it doesn't really exist. I'm used to a background of hits from my youth accompanying Hornby's novels, and I couldn't quite find it.

The basic idea of this book is a good one - Annie strikes up a relationship with her boyfriend's idol, unbalancing the staid balance of everyone's lives. We get to see how obsession taints its object, how losing your convictions leads to waste of all kinds, why regrets are useless. Really, all the elements of a very satisfying novel. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite come together the way I would have wished. It seems just a little contrived, a little too simple. This could be a summer movie; a romantic comedy, which I might be enticed to see if the stars were of the Cusak/Downey, Jr. variety. There's even a great role for Jack Black. Nick Hornby has had great luck in having his books made into really good movies; maybe we'll see this one on the big screen. It will gain a much bigger audience, have a really good soundtrack, and no one will be bothered by its predictability.

My next Hornby book: 31 Songs, a collections of essays about the songs that have changed his life.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I'm on a little sabbatical. Here's what I've been reading over the past few weeks:

This book is great - all that hype is really valid. Most prolific and interesting use of colons I have encountered in a novel.

I'd give this one a B. The setting, in Labrador, is an interesting twist on this story of a child who is born a true hermaphrodite. There are a few too many predictable elements, but overall an interesting and nicely written book.

I don't know why I ever bother with crime fiction. This book has an interesting theme: bullying and its extreme consequences. I don't think I learned anything new about the subject, and there wasn't really a conclusion to the story, satisfying or otherwise.

I disliked the last Tim O'Brien book I read, so I returned to this classic to remember how great he is. The war in Vietnam is the backdrop for these connected stories. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to do it now. There is some heartbreak, but these stories are about people, not military maneuvers; it's a war book for the civilian.