Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rediscovering Nick Hornby

I recently rediscovered Nick Hornby. He was in a grubby record shop, discussing a rare bootlegged version from an obscure rock band from 1971. The B-side is an undiscovered gem.

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.

12 comments:

  1. We Americans like to root for the underdog too. What do you call a restroom? The loo?

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  2. I guess so. There are like numerous terms, toilet, bog too.

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  3. It's "roommate". Heh.

    I get Blackadder. And The League of Gentlemen. Doesn't mean I like them.

    I'm currently slogging through Tony Parsons' My Favourite Wife. Meh.

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  4. I've never actually read any Hornby, but I love the movie versions of High Fidelity and About a Boy.

    I lived in Minneapolis for 8 years, during my alcohol-soaked 20s, so that bit about restrooms in Minneapolis got me thinking, and then laughing.

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  5. Never heard of him. And I didn't see the Cusak movie either.

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  6. Haven't read his books but seen them floating around cyberspace...poor you to be surrounded by the ones you were desperately running from....read all the backlog of posts...nice photo blogs you mentioned...happy weekend.

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  7. I'll have to give him a try, sounds right up my alley. I think the American version of the Office is successful because people strangely like being embarrassed and you really viscerally become embarrassed for Michael Scott. I like both versions of the show, they share a few things on the surface but they are really entirely different animals altogether.

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  8. I liked the British version of the Office better than the American one. Hilarious. I will have to look up Nick Hornby. You've got me interested.

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  9. An award for you David! Over at http://traverselife.blogspot.com/2011/03/who-me-stylish.html

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  10. that's impressive Molly, can't say I'm a Tony Parsons fan. eek = hope I didn't remind you of bad restroom experiences in Minni, Tim. I agree, About a Boy was a great film. There's some funny books Oilfield, although they can get a bit similar. Glad you caught up on the old blogs there Rek. Indeed Christopher, to be fair I never watched enough of the US version to get into it. You should for sure Marnie, How to Be Good is a great Hornby book. Thanks Sue, I'll check it out now....

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  11. Oh wow, brilliant post! I am definitely going to have to get some of his books now. Maybe he can explain my tendency to hop onto planes just to see some absolutely-favourite-but-terminally-obscure band I’m currently obsessed with.

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  12. I wonder how Irvine Welsh would go down in the States?

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