Thursday, April 08, 2010

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

I was but a young bookseller when I was given a copy of High Fidelity and was sold immediately on the author's talents.  There have been some peaks and valleys since but I am happy to say Juliet, Naked is my favorite Hornby book since About a Boy

Hornby has always been adept at, and has become expert in, portraying his characters with depth despite their shallowness, honesty despite their self-deceit and the ability to change after hitting bottom.  He has a way of imbuing his characters with a marvelous sense of humanity while also keeping them normal and real and even mundane.  I believe it is this sense of the mundane that makes them so readily identifiable.  Not only do I know Rob from High Fidelity or About a Boy's Will, I am Rob, I have been Will and, in this instance, Duncan and Tucker AND Annie.  (here's a question I've always had: does Hornby write women well?  After all these years, I still can't decide.)

So, to Juliet:  in short, Duncan, a university teacher, worships an obscure American singer/songwriter named Tucker Crowe, whose retirement from music is shrouded in rumor and innuendo, much of it fueled and speculated on by Duncan and his like-minded Internet cohorts.  Duncan and girlfriend Annie long ago lost sight of each other and muddle through life as DuncanandAnnie, a sort of loveless blob, together more by habit than affection.  When Annie strikes up an unusual email correspondence with the reclusive Crowe, everything comes unglued though it doesn't become the sitcom it could in less capable hands.  Fortunately for the reader, Hornby tells a story that is entertaining and emotionally honest and is filled with warmth, growth and humor.

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