Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Nick Hornby Tribute in High Fidelity Style

A few days ago I regretfully returned to the library the latest Nick Hornby book--unread.

Not because it doesn't interest me. Like High Fidelity, my favorite Hornby book, it's partly about relationships and music. This one features a woman and her music fanatic of a boyfriend, whose obsession with a Dylanesque songwriter who disappeared from the music world twenty years ago infects their relationship. The book is called Juliet, Naked, which is also the title of the missing songwriter's acoustic version of his greatest album.

Much as I'd like to start the book, I know I won't be able to get to it for a while. So in tribute to Nick Hornby, and one of my favorite Hornby characters, Rob, from High Fidelity, I've created a list of top five reasons I love Nick Hornby and his books. (High Fidelity begins with Rob's "desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups, in chronological order," and features many other top fives, often about music.)

1. The friendships in High Fidelity. Several years after reading the book, I still think this is one of the best depictions of friendship I've ever seen. Rob's affection for and sometimes frustration with his fellow geeks at the record store captures the rhythms of friendship, and their banter about music and more makes this a world I'd like to slip into and stay a while.

2. His books are incredibly funny but he also manages to address serious issues with more depth and honesty than some "serious" novelists. Case in point is How to be Good, which raises the question of how to be a good person when a formerly cynical newspaper columnist morphs into an excessively altruistic do-gooder, whose new lifestyle alienates his family.

3. DJ GoodNews. DJ GoodNews is the hilarious "healer"/crank whose appearance in How to Be Good leads to the newspaperman's conversion. DJ GoodNews preaches love and understanding but is apparently incapable of having a lasting relationship with anyone, including his sister, whom he swears at hysterically (in both senses of the word) before hanging up on her. As the narrator, Katie, says: "Who are these people that they want to save the world and yet they are incapable of forming proper relationships with anybody? As GoodNews so eloquently puts it, it's love this and love that, but of course it's so easy to love someone you don't know, whether it's George Clooney or Monkey. Staying civil to someone with whom you've ever shared Christmas turkey--now, there's a miracle."

4. His characters are flawed and realistically depicted, but there's a sweetness to many of them that shines through. Hornby's a clear-eyed but empathetic writer--a winning and smart combination.

5. He writes incredibly well about music and its meaning in people's lives. He has impeccable taste in music, too. How can you not love someone who admits to listening to Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen 1,500 times: "Just over once a week for twenty-five years, which sounds about right, if one takes into account the repeat plays in the first couple of years" (from Songbook).

Check out the novels of Nick Hornby today, or, if you've read them all, I highly recommend his American counterpart, Tom Perrotta.

And please chime in with your own top five lists related to books, CDs, or DVDs! (Or top three lists if you're overbooked!)

1 comment:

Linda K. said...

Of course my top five list would have to include the South Florida crazies in the novels by Carl Hiaasen. My top pick has to be Native Tongue. How could you not love it? (blue-tongued voles, a little old lady who shoots the bad guy in the foot, a security guard who sips steroids through a tube, and a weird Disney-like amusement park knock-off.) The other four Hiassens, in order of hilarity, would be Sick Puppy, Stormy Weather, Double Whammy and Strip Tease. Lots of environmental issues stuffed into dark crazy humor packages. (He could actually be in a top ten list) My only regret is that Hiaasen doesn't write more!

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