Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
Anyway, we’re here to talk about the content, not the cover-art (although the way Hornby likes to overlap music and literature, they might be very much inter-connected in his mind.)
There are three main characters here - Duncan (the Super Fan), Annie (his long-term live-in girlfriend), and Tucker Crowe (a retired, reclusive, singer-songwriter from the 80s...guess who Duncan is a Super Fan of? Right.) The book opens with Duncan and Annie in the middle of the Super Fans’ dream tour of America: venues, the home of a muse, and a pivotal bar bathroom. It’s apparent from the second page that Annie, while a fan herself, is not quite on the same level as Duncan. And because this is a book by Nick Hornby, the astute reader knows that this will lead to some reflection on the state of their relationship.
There is also a good deal of reflection regarding the internet, fan sites, and rumors. Particularly the extent to which Wikipedia can be wrong. One of Hornby’s great feats: taking a thought that has idly wandered through the brain of an ordinary person and turning it into something that can seem - if not profound - then certainly worthy of discussion.
Zing forward and we meet Tucker - a character I found myself being intrigued by. Like all poets he has the gift of self-reflection, but like so many washed-up has-been’s, he regards himself as a failure in every aspect of his life. Particularly in the realm of fatherhood. It’s not often that a reader is allowed to see the Failed Father from his own perspective. We are allowed to feel sympathy for him because his failure is borne of his own sense of hopelessness and his current situation allows him to try and redeem himself. Characters seeking redemption are hard to hate, no matter how repulsive they may have been in their younger years.
This is the age-old story of taking things you perceive to be true and being forced to re-examine them. I thought many times “I know exactly where this is going to end up, but I like the route we’re taking to get there.” In fact, I often did not know where the story was going. I did not see the things which - in observing the book as a whole - make it feel like it could be a story being told between friends catching up at a pub. For all we know, that’s where his inspiration could have come from.
Also, it’s written by Nick Hornby, who brought us the greatness of High Fidelity and About a Boy - and who served as the inspiration for this very blog. (See the sidebar on the right.)