After last month’s book review of Ronan Farrow’s nonfiction account of reporting on the Harvey Weinstein story, “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,” I needed something decidedly lighter and fun. As I mentioned before, I think that my severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has affected my ability to handle more intense material even if I’m just reading about or watching it. So because of that I wanted to pick something that was lighter in tone and fictional. So I turned to one of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby. British author Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “About A Boy”) has a fantastic literary voice that I couldn’t wait to have floating through my head after the intensity of Farrow’s book.
I began reading and quickly finished Hornby’s novel released a few years ago called “Juliet, Naked.” (No Juliets are actually depicted as naked in this novel. Don’t worry, it’s not a grittier and more pornographic Romeo and Juliet. 🤦🏼♀️ Bad attempt at a joke, I know.) Bad jokes are over (maybe). Now onto the book review.
Nick Hornby has created this unique literary voice of the music fanboy. In “High Fidelity” his protagonist used his love of rating music by “Top Five Lists” as a device to analyze the character’s love life (the novel was eventually turned into a movie starring John Cusack, also called “High Fidelity”). So when I read the synopsis of “Juliet, Naked” (A long suffering girlfriend of an obsessed music fan forms a relationship with the musician who is the object of her boyfriend’s obsession.) I was excited Hornby was again entering the world of music fandom and obsession (like “High Fidelity”).
I wouldn’t say that I was an extreme music fan (before my TBI made it impossible for me to listen to and process music). But I loved it. I miss it every day. Growing up like a lot of American girls I went through a phase where I was a super fan of a boy band (in my case, New Kids on the Block). Once I moved on from boy band fandom, I ventured into enjoying styles of music more than a single musical act. And then in the years before my accident I became a fan of a local radio station and would go to an outdoor concert they put on every summer.
So when it comes to music super fandom I recognize it and can relate but I have never been as well versed in a musician, group or music style to be like one of the super fans Hornby often writes about. Even so, you don’t need to be a super fan of anything to appreciate Hornby’s writing and his perspective on things. He uses music and fandom as a lens through which to view life and love.
“Juliet, Naked” is the story of an English woman named Annie who happens to form a relationship with the American musician who has been the object of obsession of her longtime boyfriend. Annie and her live-in boyfriend have been in a relationship for 15 years and live in a dreary seaside English town (fictional because I imagine Hornby didn’t want to draw ire from real dreary English seaside towns). The book opens with Annie and her boyfriend, Duncan, taking an American sojourn to sites and scenes associated with the long since dormant American rocker of Duncan’s obsession (the fictional Tucker Crowe).
There were times in the book where I found myself continuing to read long after I meant to shut off the lights and stop reading. This primarily wasn’t because I was incredibly engrossed, I was just waiting and wanting something to happen. And maybe that’s pointing more towards an appeal than it is a criticism. This is something I need to learn to do as a writer: keep them reading.
This book certainly cleansed my palate and left me thinking I should make a point to read ALL of Nick Hornby’s books. So of course I made a graphic with his book titles so I have something visual to turn to next time I want to choose a book by Nick Hornby. I didn’t list his screenwriting work, etc.
Note: There is a movie released in 2018 of “Juliet, Naked” starring Ethan Hawke (guess which role he plays), Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd. It’s available on Amazon Prime Video so I will probably watch it soon (I haven’t currently watched it so I can’t tell you how close it is to the book). But I will say this: read Nick Hornby. I know a lot of his work has been made into film, but please do yourself a massive favor and actually read a book by Nick Hornby. His wit and wisdom can’t quite translate completely to the celluloid screen.
Memoir Writing Update
If you missed it in my last #CreativityForDays post: I hit 50,000 words in my memoir. It’s far from over though. But an end is in sight!