'Juliet, Naked': Nick Hornby's big-hearted novel of obsessed music lovers and bittersweet love
Nick Hornby's "Juliet, Naked" showcases the author's obsessive love of music in a novel devoted to love, heartbreak and the importance of a good soundtrack to live by. Hornby reads Friday, Oct. 9, at the Seattle Public Library.
Special to The Seattle Times
The author of "Juliet, Naked" will read at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 at Seattle Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave.; free (206-386-4636, www.spl.org). Copresented by Elliott Bay Book Co.
"Hopeless music obsessives, take note! (We know who we are, don't we?) Nick Hornby, that matchless chronicler of the joys and sorrows of being drunk with music, is back.
Hornby is a Briton perhaps best known for "High Fidelity," a novel starring a record-shop owner and music nut — the sort of guy who fights a sad, just-jilted mood by rearranging his record collection according to who gave it to him. (The book was made into a pretty good movie with John Cusack.)
"Juliet, Naked" (Riverhead, 406 pp., $24.95) returns to that turf. Tucker Crowe is an American singer-songwriter known for "Juliet," hailed as the greatest breakup album ever made. Soon after its release, though, Crowe inexplicably left music, abandoning a tour and retreating to splendid isolation in rural Pennsylvania.
Crowe faded into obscurity, and a decade later only a small band of fanatics pays much attention to him. Their contributions to a Crowe Web site are cranky, hilarious dissections of every teeny detail about their hero's life and art.
Then a major bombshell drops into their little world: a never-released Crowe CD. "Juliet, Naked" is an acoustic version of the original. It just arrives in the mailbox of the biggest obsessive of them all, Duncan, a faintly pompous instructor at a minor British college. Our fanboy is, of course, stunned and thrilled. His girlfriend Annie — well, she's not so excited. She likes the singer, but not enough to devote her life to Croweology. She's also restless, bored by her sterile years with Duncan and eager to find something fulfilling — and make that something connected with having a baby, please.
More out of curiosity than anything, she posts an essay about the new album on Duncan's Web site — and gets a private e-mail response from Crowe, who is also melancholy. His latest wife is unhappy, and most of his children hate him. The two begin an e-mail conversation that soon gets deeper.
The result is as bittersweet and big-hearted as Hornby's best books — and that's saying something. Though there are surface similarities to previous work, there's plenty of new ideas to chew on too.
For instance: What's the relationship between art and artifice? How much autobiography can we ascribe to someone's work? How should we treat celebrity? And how does music strike different people in different ways? (It does, too; as Noel Coward said, "Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.")
And "Juliet, Naked" is deeply pleasurable. Some might turn their noses up at this easy-reading angle; Hornby has sometimes been criticized for being too upbeat and commercial. This strikes me as something stuffy Duncan would say — that if a book is popular and accessible it must be bad.
I suppose that the disdain is for Hornby's vernacular style (conversational, casual, and thoughtful but not "written"), his unashamed populism, and his sweet but flawed characters. To this attitude I say: applesauce. Hornby will be in town for an appearance at the central library Seattle Central Library. In person, he's funny and articulate, and his appearance there will be a treat.
Adam Woog's column on crime and mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times. He listened to Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, a great breakup album by a famously reclusive musician, as he wrote this review.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(Courtesy of LeMay — America's Car Museum) New LeMay exhibit to look at NASCAR LeMay — America's Car Museum in Tacoma will look at the wil...
Post a comment