Saturday, March 19, 2011
Rediscovering Nick Hornby
OK, he wasn't. But you know what I mean.
It's been years since I last read a Nick Hornby novel. I believe it was About a Boy, a different life, a different wife, by the swimming pool in Gran Canaria.
This may sound glamorous, but it wasn't. The all inclusive deal cost about the same for two weeks as a train ticket from London to Leeds. But one of the pools had been drained, the food was certifiable and the resort was over populated by Brits in football shirts guzzling from the all inclusive bar.
There's something ironic about paying to get to a foreign country to get away from Brits, only to be surrounded by more.
The local spirits made me go green. I fell sick and have never felt good ever since. Or maybe that's old age.
But at least Nick was a constant. He was writing about nerds than and he's writing about nerds now.
Horby's new novel. Juliet Naked, is about a guy called Duncan who's obsessed with Tucker Crowe, an obscure musician who became more obscure by disappearing into obscurity when he was threatening to emerge out of it. There's a lot of obscurity going on.
The novel is written from the standpoint of his girlfriend who, quite reasonably, wonders what she's doing with a guy who flies all the way to Minneapolis to see a restroom where Tucker had a strange and mysterious experience that led him to the aforementioned obscurity.
Well haven't we all had strange and mysterious experiences in restrooms in Minneapolis? Actually not. And why am I using the term restroom that I have never been comfortable with because who goes here to have a nap?
Well there was that Chinese restaurant in London after a few beers too many but we don't want to go there.
Anyhow this seems to be vintage Hornby along the lines of High Fidelity, although I haven't got so far with the novel as I am also trying to reacquaint myself with the classics by reading Jane Eyre.
According to all accounts Hornby is an unassuming kind of guy, a bit like his nerds. Julie Burchill recounts a story of how he once arrived at a pretentious party in London full of aspiring authors who basically gave him the cold shoulder because he looked like a dork. A few weeks later he had a best seller on his hands, while they were still talking about writing one.
Brits like stories of the underdog coming out on top. Hence a series of movies about success against the odds from Brassed Off to The Full Monty and Billy Elliot.
Of course when films like this become popular, Americans normally take hold of them, suck the gritty working class essence out of them and shove them on Broadway.
The Office is a prime example. Take a hilarious comedy that is about a boss from hell, played brilliantly by Ricky Gervais and make your own version minus Gervais and ... oh humor.
Although I know folks who find this show funny so I can only assume there's an American vein of humor I'm not getting as surely as many Americans don't get Blackadder or the League of Gentlemen.
Even Hornby received a US makeover. I'm not sure High Fidelity benefitted much from it. John Cusack was a bit too glam for the lead role to my mind.
The one Hornby book I have nothing to do with is Fever Pitch. It involves Arsenal beating Liverpool at the end and we lost the league.
It brings back painful memories. The last gasp tension and gloating face of my Arsenal supporting room mate (oh no another American term), smug, meaty and ripe to be slapped.
Blog postscript - be carefully when searching for photos of Juliet, Naked. I'm not sure what that guy's wife was doing with the goldfish but PETA might want to look into.