One thing you should know about Nick Hornby is that he is insanely – and I mean insanely – quotable. It’s the reason he’s my go-to author when I’m in desperate need of something clever and funny and insightful. He has the uncanny ability to articulate things that you’ve always thought about, but never been able to put in to words.
That being said, I was more than a little disappointed with Juliet, Naked.
When I picked up the book – I won’t lie – I expected it to be a lot like High Fidelity (which you really should read, if you haven’t already). In fact, I was rather counting on it. I haven’t found a single author that talks about music like Hornby does and the reason that is, I think, is because he delves into the why of it all. Why do we spend hours labouring over the perfect playlist, and creating an atmosphere that will suit the music instead of the other way around? Why do we fiercely defend our favourite bands and automatically and unreasonably dislike the people that don’t think as highly of them? Why are we so possessive of the music we listen to and so picky about who we introduce it to?
Juliet, Naked – quite simply – is about music. And our relationship with it. How we sometimes go overboard and it turns into an obsession. How we sometimes claim ownership over a band or an album, something I find myself extremely guilty of doing. And how doing all of the above is okay while still being not okay. You know?
Nick Hornby has a way of talking about dysfunctional people and dysfunctional relationships that leaves me shaking my head in wonder. There is no condescension. None. Things just are as they are, and the characters he introduces us to are extremely real – they mess up, they make bad choices, and sometimes things get better, but sometimes they don’t. They make no apologies for their behaviour, and that – that – is why I love reading about them.
“But then, that was the trouble with relationships generally. They had their own temperature and there was no thermostat.”
The reason I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would has more to do with me than the actual book, I suppose. I loved that it made me ask myself all those questions and shift uncomfortably in my chair. I also loved that it made me feel like I wasn’t alone in that aspect. It seemed like I was having a conversation with these characters rather than just reading about them. But then, as the book went along, the story arc seemed separate from all these conversations about music and love and loneliness. It distracted me. I didn’t care what happened to the characters next, I just wanted to hear them think. And they were increasingly engaging in more doing and less thinking. And that’s where the problem lies. Hornby is a thought-and-dialogue-crafting word-ninja. When it comes to his characters actually doing things, I find myself slightly less enamoured.