JULIET, NAKED by Nick Hornby

Book Quote:

“Nobody gets forgotten anymore. Seven fans in Australia team up with three Canadians, nine Brits and a couple of dozen Americans, and somebody who hasn’t recorded in twenty years gets talked about every day. It’s what the Internet’s for. That and pornography.”

Book Review:

Review by Mike Frechette (FEB 26, 2010)

Nick Hornby novels translate well into film. Just think about High Fidelity and About a Boy, which have taken their place in the movie catalogs of many Hornby fans since their release. His latest work, Juliet, Naked, seems to possess the same potential. Well, the first scene does anyway, which would make a great opening shot: a forty-year-old Brit having his photo taken at a urinal in a Minneapolis club where his musical hero decided to stop writing songs in 1986. The photographer in this scene, Annie, has accompanied her – “Partner? Life Partner? Friend?” – of fifteen years, Duncan, to America. On a quasi-religious pilgrimage, they visit singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe’s points of interest – birthplace, career-ending urinal, and home of the beautiful woman who inspired Tucker’s greatest album, Juliet.

For most, unhealthy obsession with art and musicians ends shortly after adolescence – or at least right after college. However, Duncan cannot let go, a point of growing contention with Annie. When they were first introduced, they “fell upon each other with relief,” the only two sophisticated souls in the grim English seaside town of Gooleness. Now years later in a frustrating, long-stale cohabitation, they are “stuck in a perpetual postgraduate world where gigs and books and films mattered more to them than they did to other people of their age.”

Tucker Crowe has lived a reclusive life in Pennsylvania since shortly after the infamous urinal incident of 1986. Although his catalog of albums stopped growing long ago, his fertility rate has not suffered. He has spent the last twenty years or so collecting ex-wives, ignoring his brood of estranged children, and recovering from alcoholism. His reclusiveness has lent itself well to wild speculation from the obsessed, self-fashioned experts like Duncan – Crowologists as they call themselves. While most men Duncan’s age reproduce and rear children, he spends his leisure time endlessly chatting on the less-than-official Tucker Crowe website. When Crowe breaks his decades-long silence and releases stripped-down, acoustic demos of the Juliet tracks, Annie – in an act of pent up betrayal – posts a review to rival and contradict Duncan’s overdone, highly biased one. Crowe responds favorably to one of them, which, combined with Duncan’s own act of infidelity, puts the plot in motion in what will most definitely be celebrated as a Nick Hornby classic.

As with all Hornby books, what stands out in Juliet, Naked is the nearly perfect blend of humor and soulfulness. In particular, Tucker’s clumsy attempts at pacifying the fears of his six-year-old son Jackson are especially heartwarming and funny. Jackson becomes frightened at Tucker’s mention of guns in an airport security line, to which Tucker responds: “Sometimes bad guys take guns on planes…to rob rich people. But we’re not rich…Rich people wear stupid watches and smell nice. We’re not wearing watches, and we smell bad.”

At the same time, Hornby does not shy away from the existential despair at the heart of the contemporary human experience – or at least the American and British one. Images of absence appear regularly throughout the story, calling attention to the void in the lives of each of these characters, especially Annie and Duncan. At the center of their relationship is essentially nothing except a stale, mind-numbing familiarity – there is no love, marriage, or children. As Annie regretfully admits, she “and Duncan had both managed to create an empty space, a complicated one, with all sorts of tricky corners and odd bumps and surprising indents, like a jigsaw piece.” The only thing redeeming about these absences and this emptiness is that they “had made her think,” which proves to be her first step in extricating herself from such a dissatisfying existence. Hornby’s imagery provokes the reader to think as well, making what could be just a lighthearted funny tale into an also serious exploration of the human condition.

On a separate note, reviewers will be delighted to know that Hornby also gives them a nod in this latest story, addressing the very act of reviewing itself. In perusing the Tucker Crowe website after Duncan posts her review, Annie begins contemplating the futility of writing about and reviewing someone else’s art, especially on a website that only a handful of people visit. She asks herself, “Why had she bothered? Why does anybody?” This moment quickly passes, though. She realizes that, despite the futility, “she was for bothering, on the whole; in which case thank you…everybody else, on every other website.” You’re welcome, Annie.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 81 readers
PUBLISHER: Riverhead Hardcover (September 29, 2009)
REVIEWER: Mike Frechette
AMAZON PAGE: Juliet, Naked

Wikipedia page on Nick Hornby

EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: This reminds me of:

The Song is You by Arthur Phillips



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February 26, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Drift-of-Life, Humorous, y Award Winning Author

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