Friday, January 15, 2010

Juliet, Naked (Nick Hornby)

Trumpets, please ::bupt buppa bah:: The first new book review of 2010 is finally here! Nick Hornby is the guy who wrote High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Fever Pitch, but I never read any of those, so all I knew about his latest book, Juliet, Naked, going into the reading was that it was probably British. I was right.


I'll admit, I was slightly disappointed when I realized that Juliet, Naked was primarily about a musician and his bare-bones rerelease of his album Juliet (hence the Naked part), and not about some chick who was constantly taking off her clothes. The aforementioned musician is a guy by the name of Tucker Crowe, a singer/songwriter from the late 70s and early 80s who inexplicably went into hiding after a mysterious bathroom encounter in Minnesota in June of 1986. No one knows where disappeared to, and at the time of the story, it's still the source of intense (read: nerdy, intellectual, and mostly online) debate. At the beginning of the novel, none of this seems very important, though, except in that Annie and Duncan, a middle-aged couple from a coastal town in England, do nothing all day except listen to Tucker Crowe's music and write about it online. It's a boring existence. The two have been together for 15 years, but don't seem close to getting married or having kids any time soon, a fact that bothers Annie much more than Duncan. When a new Tucker Crowe album comes out for the first time in decades, and Annie and Duncan have extremely varied opinions on its merit, it starts a fight that dredges up all of the problems that the two have refused to admit to themselves, leaving their relationship in tatters. From there, completely absurd things happen for slightly ludicrous reasons.

It's strange, I know I said absurd things happen, they do, but nothing REALLY happens in this book. The things that do happen are flushed out well, and, again, are absurd, so it never lost my attention, though. I enjoyed it a lot, actually. The only problem I had is that Tucker Crowe is an American, as are some of the other characters, but Hornby has them talking like British people, using prepositions in funny British places. It's not a huge thing, but it does make all of the characters seem like they have the same exact voice. Hornby is funny, and I like his unique narrative voice, it's just a bummer that his characters don't have unique voices as well.

That being said, it's still a very good book. He raises questions on relationships and how people should treat themselves, whether or not they should settle and be safe or be alone instead. There's also ALOT of discussion on what art means, for the artist and the viewer/listener, which is interesting. Knowing that Hornby wrote the great John Cusack/Hugh Grant vehicles that he has, I was a little underwhelmed, but it's not a novel that's trying to save anybody's life or anything. It's a fun story about people who don't know what to do when they realize that they probably just wasted the last fifteen years on someone they don't love. And instead of being gripping and powerful, it's witty and sarcastic. They're British. I would never nominate this book for any prizes, but I would recommend it. Not every novel has to blow you away. Sometimes it's okay for a book to just quietly amuse you, or make you think about the choices you've made without forcing you to change your life. It's not heavy-handed, it's not preachy, it's a cute, quirky story. Go for it.


Juliet, Naked
by Nick Hornby

Nothing revelatory, but definitely enjoyable. I can completely understand why Nick Hornby has done well for himself, if all of his other novels are as solid as this. Points off for the lack of naked Juliets, though.

The lack of character distinction did bother me a little bit, but Hornby has his own voice that does come across very strongly, which helped a lot. He's a funny guy, in an awkward, Colin Firth kind of way.

If you like British humor, you'll like this book. If you like unromantic romantic comedies, you'll like this book. If you had a crush on John Cusack when you were in high school and always secretly wished that he would come to your house holding a boombox over his head, even though Nick Hornby didn't write that one, you'll still like this book. If you like realistic situations where nothing completely ridiculous happens... actually, then you probably won't like this book. But if you answered "yes" to those first three, go ahead and check out Juliet, Naked.


And we've officially kicked off 2010! Thanks for all your support in the new year! Keep reading, Genoshans!

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