From the beloved New York Times– bestselling author, a quintessential Nick Hornby tale of music, superfandom, and the truths and lies we tell ourselves about life and love. Now a major motion picture starring Ethan Hawke.
Nick Hornby returns to his roots—music and messy relationships—in this funny and touching novel that thoughtfully and sympathetically looks at how lives can be wasted but how they are never beyond redemption. Annie lives in a dull town on England’s bleak east coast and is in a relationship with Duncan that mirrors the place; Tucker, once a brilliant songwriter and performer, has gone into seclusion in rural America—or at least that’s what his fans think. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker’s work to the point of derangement, and when Annie dares to go public on her dislike of his latest album, there are quite unexpected, life-changing consequences for all three.
Nick Hornby uses this intriguing canvas to explore why it is we so often let the early promise of relationships, ambition, and indeed life, evaporate. And he comes to some surprisingly optimistic conclusions about the struggle to live up to one’s promise.
|Publisher:||Recorded Books, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||4.25(w) x 2.75(h) x 6.30(d)|
About the Author
NICK HORNBY is the author of the internationally bestselling novels High Fidelity, About a Boy, A Long Way Down, Slam, Juliet, Naked, and Funny Girl, as well as several works of nonfiction. He lives in London.
Date of Birth:April 17, 1957
Place of Birth:Redhill, Surrey, England
Education:Jesus College, Cambridge University
Read an Excerpt
They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.
The simple truth of this only struck Annie when they were actually inside it: apart from the graffi ti on the walls, some of which made some kind of reference to the toilet's importance in musical history, it was dank, dark, smelly and entirely unremarkable. Americans were very good at making the most of their heritage, but there wasn't much even they could do here.
"Have you got the camera, Annie?" said Duncan.
"Yes. But what do you want a picture of?"
"Just, you know . . . "
"Well . . . the toilet."
"What, the . . . What do you call those things?"
"The urinals. Yeah."
"Do you want to be in it?"
"Shall I pretend to have a pee?"
"If you want."
So Duncan stood in front of the middle of the three urinals, his hands placed convincingly in front of him, and smiled back over his shoulder at Annie.
"I'm not sure the fl ash worked."
"One more. Be silly to come all the way here and not get a good one."
This time Duncan stood just inside one of the stalls, with the door open. The light was better there, for some reason. Annie took as good a picture of a man in a toilet as one could reasonably expect. When Duncan moved, she could see that this toilet, like just about every other one she'd ever seen in a rock club, was blocked.
"Come on," said Annie. "He didn't even want me in here."
This was true. The guy behind the bar had initially suspected that they were looking for a place where they could shoot up, or perhaps have sex. Eventually, and hurtfully, the barman had clearly decided that they were capable of doing neither thing.
Duncan took one last look and shook his head. "If toilets could talk, eh?"
Annie was glad this one couldn't. Duncan would have wanted to chat to it all night.
Most people are unaware of Tucker Crowe's music, let alone some of the darker moments of his career, so the story of what may or may not have happened to him in the restroom of the Pits Club is probably worth repeating here. Crowe was in Minneapolis for a show and had turned up at the Pits to see a local band called the Napoleon Solos which he'd heard good things about. (Some Crowe completists, Duncan being one, own a copy of the local band's one and only album, The Napoleon Solos Sing Their Songs and Play Their Guitars.) In the middle of the set, Tucker went to the toilet. Nobody knows what happened in there, but when he came out, he went straight back to his hotel and phoned his manager to cancel the rest of the tour. The next morning he began what we must now think of as his retirement. That was in June 1986. Nothing more has been heard of him since—no new recordings, no gigs, no interviews. If you love Tucker Crowe as much as Duncan and a couple of thousand other people in the world do, that toilet has a lot to answer for. And since, as Duncan had so rightly observed, it can't speak, Crowe fans have to speak on its behalf. Some claim that Tucker saw God, or one of His representatives, in there; others claim he had a near-death experience after an overdose. Another school of thought has it that he caught his girlfriend having sex with his bass player in there, although Annie found this theory a little fanciful. Could the sight of a woman screwing a musician in a toilet really have resulted in twenty-two years of silence? Perhaps it could. Perhaps it was just that Annie had never experienced passion that intense. Anyway. Whatever. All you need to know is that something profound and life-changing took place in the smallest room of a small club.
Annie and Duncan were in the middle of a Tucker Crowe pilgrimage. They had wandered around New York, looking at various clubs and bars that had some kind of Crowe connection, although most of these sites of historic interest were now designer clothes stores, or branches of McDonald's. They had been to his childhood home in Bozeman, Montana, where, thrillingly, an old lady came out of her house to tell them that Tucker used to clean her husband's old Buick when he was a kid. The Crowe family home was small and pleasant and was now owned by the manager of a small printing business, who was surprised that they had traveled all the way from England to see the outside of his house, but who didn't ask them in. From Montana they flew to Memphis, where they visited the site of the old American Sound Studio (the studio itself having been knocked down in 1990), where Tucker, drunk and grieving, recorded Juliet, his legendary breakup album, and the one Annie liked the most. Still to come: Berkeley, California, where Juliet—in real life a former model and socialite called Julie Beatty—still lived to this day. They would stand outside her house, just as they had stood outside the printer's house, until Duncan could think of no reason to carry on looking, or until Julie called the police, a fate that had befallen a couple of other Crowe fans that Duncan knew from the message boards.
Annie didn't regret the trip. She'd been to the U.S. a couple of times, to San Francisco and New York, but she liked the way Tucker was taking them to places she'd other wise never have visited. Bozeman, for example, turned out to be a beautiful little mountain town, surrounded by exotic-sounding ranges she'd never heard of: the Big Belt, the Tobacco Root, the Spanish Peaks. After staring at the small and unremarkable house, they walked into town and sipped iced tea in the sunshine outside an organic café, while in the distance the odd Spanish Peak, or possibly the top of a Tobacco Root, threatened to puncture the cold blue sky. She'd had worse mornings than that on holidays that had promised much more. It was a sort of random, pin-sticking tour of America, as far as she was concerned. She got sick of hearing about Tucker, of course, and talking about him and listening to him and attempting to understand the reasons behind every creative and personal decision he'd ever made. But she got sick of hearing about him at home, too, and she'd rather get sick of him in Montana or Tennessee than in Gooleness, the small seaside town in England where she shared a house with Duncan.
The one place that wasn't on the itinerary was Tyrone, Pennsylvania, where Tucker was believed to live, although, as with all orthodoxies, there were heretics: two or three of the Crowe community subscribed to the theory—interesting but preposterous, according to Duncan—that he'dbeen living in New Zealand since the early nineties. Tyrone hadn't even been mentioned as a possible destination when they'd been planning the trip, and Annie thought she knew why. A couple of years ago, one of the fans went out to Tyrone, hung around, eventually located what he understood to be Tucker Crowe's farm; he came back with a photograph of an alarmingly grizzled-looking man aiming a shotgun at him. Annie had seen the picture, many times, and she found it distressing. The man's face was disfi gured by rage and fear, as if everything he'd worked for and believed in was in the process of being destroyed by a Canon Sure Shot. Duncan wasn't too concerned about the rape of Crowe's privacy: the fan, Neil Ritchie, had achieved a kind of Zapruder level of fame and respect among the faithful that Annie suspected Duncan rather envied. What had perturbed him was that Tucker Crowe had called Neil Ritchie a "fucking asshole." Duncan couldn't have borne that.
After the visit to the restroom at the Pits, they took advice from the concierge and ate at a Thai restaurant in the Riverfront District a couple of blocks away. Minneapolis, it turned out, was on the Mississippi—who knew, apart from Americans, and just about anyone else who'd paid attention in geography lessons?—so Annie ended up ticking off something else she'd never expected to see, although here at the less romantic end it looked disappointingly like the Thames. Duncan was animated and chatty, still unable quite to believe that he'd been inside a place that had occupied so much of his imaginative energy over the years.
"Do you think it's possible to teach a whole course on the toilet?"
"With you just sitting on it, you mean? You wouldn't get it past Health and Safety."
"I didn't mean that."
Sometimes Annie wished that Duncan had a keener sense of humor—a keener sense that something might be meant humorously, anyway. She knew it was too late to hope for actual jokes.
"I meant, teach a whole course on the toilet in the Pits."
Duncan looked at her.
"Are you teasing me?"
"No. I'm saying that a whole course about Tucker
Crowe's twenty-year-old visit to the toilet wouldn't be very iinteresting."
"I'd include other things."
"Other toilet visits in history?"
"No. Other career-defi ning moments."
"Elvis had a good toilet moment. Pretty careerdefi
"Dying's different. Too unwilled. John Smithers wrote an essay for the website about that. Creative death versus actual death. It was actually pretty interesting." Annie nodded enthusiastically, while at the same time hoping that Duncan wouldn't print it off and put it in front of her when they got home.
"I promise that after this holiday I won't be so Tuckercentric," he said.
"That's okay. I don't mind."
"I've wanted to do this for a long time."
"I'll have got him out of my system."
"I hope not."
"What would there be left of you, if you did?"
She hadn't meant it cruelly. She'd been with Duncan for nearly fifteen years, and Tucker Crowe had always been part of the package, like a disability. To begin with, the condition hadn't prevented him from living a normal life: yes, he'd written a book, as yet unpublished, about Tucker, lectured on him, contributed to a radio documentary for the BBC and organized conventions, but somehow these activities had always seemed to Annie like isolated episodes, sporadic attacks.
And then the Internet came along and changed everything. When, a little later than everyone else, Duncan discovered how it all worked, he set up a website called "Can Anybody Hear Me?"—the title of a track from an obscure EP recorded after the wounding failure of Crowe's first album. Until then, the nearest fellow fan had lived in Manchester, sixty or seventy miles away, and Tucker met up with him once or twice a year; now the nearest fans lived in Duncan's laptop, and there were hundredsof them, from all around the world, and Duncan spoke to them all the time. There seemed to be a surprising amount to talk about. The website had a "Latest News" section, which never failed to amuse Annie, Tucker no longer being a man who did an awful lot. ("As far as we know," Duncan always said.) There was always something that passed for news among the faithful, though—a Crowe night on an Internet radio station, a new article, a new album from a former band member, an interview with an engineer. The bulk of the content, though, consisted of essays analyzing lyrics, or discussing infl uences, or conjecturing, apparently inexhaustibly, about the silence. It wasn't as if Duncan didn't have other interests. He had a specialist knowledge of 1970s American independent cinema and the novels of Nathanael West and he was developing a nice new line in HBO television series—he thought he might be ready to teach The Wire in the not-too-distant future. But these were all fl irtations, by comparison. Tucker Crowe was his life partner. If Crowe were to die—to die in real life, as it were, rather than creatively—Duncan would lead the mourning. (He'd already written the obituary. Every now and again he'd worry out loud about whether he should show it to a reputable newspaper now, or wait until it was needed.)
If Tucker was the husband, then Annie should somehow have become the mistress, but of course that wasn't right—the word was much too exotic and implied a level of sexual activity that would horrify them both nowadays. It would have daunted them even in the early days of their relationship. Sometimes Annie felt less like a girlfriend than a school chum who'd come to visit in the holidays and stayed for the next twenty years. They had both moved to the same English seaside town at around the same time, Duncan to fi nish his thesis and Annie to teach, and they had been introduced by mutual friends who could see that, if nothing else, they could talk about books and music, go to fi lms, travel to London occasionally to see exhibitions and gigs. Gooleness wasn't a sophisticated town. There was no arts cinema, there was no gay community, there wasn't even a Waterstone's (the nearest one was up the road in Hull), and they fell upon each other with relief. They started drinking together in the evenings and sleeping over at weekends, until eventually the sleepovers turned into something indistinguishable from cohabitation. And they had stayed like that forever, 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.
The decision not to have children had never been made, and nor had there been any discussion resulting in a postponement of the decision. It wasn't that kind of a sleep over. Annie could imagine herself as a mother, but Duncan was nobody's idea of a father, and anyway, neither of them would have felt comfortable applying cement to the relationship in that way. That wasn't what they were for. And now, with an irritating predictability, she was going through what everyone had told her she would go through: she was aching for a child. Her aches were brought on by all the usual mournful-happy life events: Christmas, the pregnancy of a friend, the pregnancy of a complete stranger she saw in the street. And she wanted a child for all the usual reasons, as far as she could tell. She wanted to feel unconditional love, rather than the faint conditional affection she could scrape together for Duncan every now and again; she wanted to be held by someone who would never question the embrace, the why or the who or the how long. There was another reason, too: she
needed to know that she could have one, that there was life in her. Duncan had put her to sleep, and in her sleep she'd been desexed.
She'd get over all this, presumably; or at least one day it would become a wistful regret, rather than a sharp hunger. But this holiday hadn't been designed to comfort her. There was an argument that you might as well change nappies as hang out in men's lavatories taking pictures. The amount of time they had for themselves was beginning to feel sort of . . . decadent.
At breakfast in their cheap and nasty hotel in downtown San Francisco, Annie read the Chronicle and decided she didn't want to see the hedge obscuring the front lawn of Julie Beatty's house in Berkeley. There were plenty of other things to do in the Bay Area. She wanted to see Haight-Ashbury, she wanted to buy a book at City Lights, she wanted to visit Alcatraz, she wanted to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. There was an exhibition of postwar West Coast art on at the Museum of Modern Art just down the street. She was happy that Tucker had lured them out to California, but she didn't want to spend a morning watching Julie's neighbors decide whether they constituted a security risk.
"You're joking," said Duncan.
"No," she said. "I really can think of better things to do."
"When we've come all this way? Why have you gone like this all of a sudden? Aren't you interested? I mean, supposing she drives out of her garage while we're outside?"
"Then I'd feel even more stupid," she said. "She'd look at me and think, ‘I wouldn't expect any different from him. He's one of the creepy guys. But what's a woman doing there?' "
"You're having me on."
"I'm really not, Duncan. We're in San Francisco for twenty-four hours and I don't know when I'll be back. Going to some woman's house . . . If you had a day in London, would you spend it outside somebody's house in, I don't know, Gospel Oak?"
"But if you've actually come to see somebody's house in Gospel Oak . . . And it's not just some woman's house, you know that. Things happened there. I'm going to stand where he stood."
No, it wasn't just any house. Everybody, apart from just about everybody, knew that. Julie Beatty had been living there with her first husband, who taught at Berkeley, when she met Tucker at a party thrown by Francis Ford Coppola. She left her husband that night. Very shortly afterward, however, she thought better of it all and went home to patch things up. That was the story, anyway. Annie had never really understood how Duncan and his fellow fans could be quite so certain about tiny private tumults that took place decades ago, but they were. "You and Your Perfect Life," the seven-minute song that ends the album, is supposed to be about the night Tucker stood outside the family home, "Throwing stones at the window / 'Til he came to the door / So where were you, Mrs. Steven Balfour?" The husband wasn't called Steven Balfour, needless to say, and the choice of a fi ctitious name had inevitably provoked endless speculation on the message boards. Duncan's theory was that he had been named after the British prime minister, the man who was accused by Lloyd George of turning the House of Lords into "Mr. Balfour's poodle"—Juliet, by extension, has become her husband's poodle. This interpretation is now accepted as definitive
by the Tucker community, and if you look up "You and Your Perfect Life" on Wikipedia, apparently, you'll see Duncan's name in the footnotes, with a link to his essay. Nobody on the website had ever dared wonder aloud whether the surname had been chosen simply because it rhymed with the word "door."
Annie loved "You and Your Perfect Life." She loved its relentless anger, and the way Tucker moved from autobiography to social commentary by turning the song into a rant about how smart women got obliterated by their men. She didn't usually like howling guitar solos, but she liked the way that the howling guitar solo in "Perfect Life" seemed just as articulate and as angry as the lyrics. And she loved the irony of it all—the way that Tucker, the man wagging his fi nger at Steven Balfour, had obliterated Julie more completely than her husband had ever managed. She would be the woman who broke Tucker's heart forever. Annie felt sorry for Julie, who'd had to deal with men like Duncan throwing stones at her windows, metaphorically and probably literally, every now and again, ever since the song was released. But she envied her, too. Who wouldn't want to make a man that passionate, that unhappy, that inspired? If you couldn't write songs yourself, then surely what Julie had done was the next best thing?
She still didn't want to see the house, though. After breakfast she took a cab to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge and walked back toward the city, the salt wind somehow sharpening her joy in being alone.
Duncan felt slightly odd, going to Juliet's place without Annie. She tended to arrange their transport to wherever they were going, and she was the one who knew the way back to wherever they had come from. He would rather have devoted his mental energy to Julie, the person, and Juliet, the album; he was intending to listen to it straight through twice, the fi rst time in its released form, the second time with the songs placed in the order that Tucker Crowe originally wanted them, according to the sound engineer in charge of the sessions. But that wasn't going to work out now, because he was going to need all his concentration for the BART. As far as he could tell, he had to get on at Powell Street and take the red line up to North Berkeley. It looked easy but, of course, it wasn't, because once he was down on the platform he couldn't find any way of telling what was a red-line train and what wasn't, and he couldn't ask anyone. Asking somebody would make it look as though he wasn't a native, and though this wouldn't matter in Rome or Paris or even in London, it mattered here, where so many things that were important to him had happened. And because he couldn't ask, he ended up on a yellow-line train, only he couldn't tell it was yellow until he got to Rockridge, which meant that he had to go back to the 19th St. Oakland stop and change. What was wrong with her? He knew she wasn't as devoted to Tucker Crowe as he was, but he'd thought that
in recent years she'd started to get it, properly. A couple of times he'd come home to fi nd her playing "You and Your
Perfect Life," although he'd been unable to interest her in the infamous but superior Bottom Line bootleg version, when Tucker had smashed his guitar to smithereens at the end of the solo. (The sound was a little muddy, admittedly, and an annoying drunk person kept shouting "Rock 'n' roll!" into the bootlegger's microphone during the last verse, but if it was anger and pain she was after, then this was the one.) He'd tried to pretend that her decision not to come was perfectly understandable, but the truth was, he was hurt. Hurt and, temporarily at least, lost. Getting to North Berkeley station felt like an achievement in itself, and he allowed himself the luxury of asking for directions to Edith Street as a reward. It was fi ne, not knowing the way to a residential street. Even natives couldn't be expected to know everything. Except of course the moment he opened his mouth, the woman he picked on wanted to tell him that she'd spent a year in Kensington, London, after she'd graduated.
He hadn't expected the streets to be quite so long and hilly, nor the houses quite so far apart, and by the time he found the right house, he was sweaty and thirsty, while at the same time bursting for a pee. There was no doubt he'd have been clearer-headed if he'd stopped somewhere near the BART station for a drink and a visit to the restroom. But he'd been thirsty and in need of a toilet before, and had always resisted the temptation to break into a stranger's house.
When he got to 1131 Edith Street, there was a kid sitting on the pavement outside, his back against a fence that looked as though it might have been erected simply to stop him from getting any further. He was in his late teens, with long, greasy hair and a wispy goatee, and when he realized that Duncan had come to look at the house, he stood up and dusted himself off.
"Yo," he said.
Duncan cleared his throat. He couldn't bring himself to return the greeting, but he offered a "Hi" instead of a "Hello," just to show that he had an informal register.
"They're not home," said the kid. "I think they might have gone to the East Coast. The Hamptons or some shit like that."
"Oh. Right. Oh well."
"You know them?"
"No, no. I just . . . You know, I'm a, well, a Crowologist. I was just in the neighborhood, so I thought, you know . . . "
"You from England?"
"You came all the way from England to see where Tucker Crowe threw his stones?" The kid laughed, so Duncan laughed, too.
"No, no. God no. Ha! I had some business in the city, and I thought, you know . . . What are you doing here, anyway?"
"Juliet is my favorite album of all time."
Duncan nodded. The teacher in him wanted to point out the non sequitur; the fan understood completely. How could he not? He didn't get the sidewalk-sitting, though. Duncan's plan had been to look, imagine the trajectory of the stones, maybe take a picture and then leave. The boy, however, seemed to regard the house as if it were a place of spiritual significance, capable of promoting a profound inner peace.
"I've been here, like, six or seven times?" the boy said.
"Always blows me away."
"I know what you mean," said Duncan, although he didn't. Perhaps it was his age, or his Englishness, but he wasn't being blown away, and he hadn't expected to be, either. It was, after all, a pleasant detached house they were standing outside, not the Taj Mahal. In any case, the need to pee was preventing any real appreciation of the moment.
"You wouldn't happen to know . . . What's your
"Elliott, you wouldn't happen to know if there's a Starbucks near here? Or something? I need a restroom."
"Ha!" said the kid.
Duncan stared at him. What kind of answer was that?
"See, I do know one right near here. But I kind of promised myself I wouldn't use it again."
"Right," said Duncan. "But . . . Would it matter if
"Kind of. Because I'd still be breaking the promise."
"Oh. Well, as I don't really understand what kind of promise you can make with regard to a public lavatory, I'm not sure I can help you with your ethical dilemma."
The boy laughed. "I love the way you English talk. ‘Ethical dilemma.' That's great."
Duncan didn't disabuse him, although he did wonder how many of his students back home would even have been able to repeat the phrase accurately, let alone use it themselves.
"But you don't think you can help me."
"Oh. Well. Maybe. How about if I told you how to fi nd it but I didn't come with you?"
"I wasn't really expecting you to come with me, to be honest."
"No. Right. I should explain. The nearest toilet to here is in there." Elliott pointed down the driveway toward Juliet's house.
"Yes, well, I suppose it would be," said Duncan. "But that doesn't really help me."
"Except I know where they keep their spare key."
"You're kidding me."
"No. I've been inside like three times? Once to use the shower. A couple times just to see what I could see. I never steal anything big. Just, you know, paperweights and shit. Souvenirs."
Duncan examined the boy's face for evidence of an elaborate joke, a satirical dig at Crowologists, and decided thatElliott hadn't made a joke since he'd turned seventeen.
"You let yourself into their house when they're out?"
The boy shrugged. "Yeah. I feel bad about it, which is why I wasn't sure about telling you."
Duncan suddenly noticed that on the ground there was a chalk drawing of a pair of feet, and an arrowed line pointing toward the house. Tucker's feet, presumably, and Tucker's stones. He wished he hadn't seen the drawing. It gave him less to do.
"Well, I can't do that."
"No. Sure. I understand."
"So there's nothing else?"
Edith Street was long and leafy, and the next cross street was long and leafy, too. It was the sort of American suburb where residents had to get into their cars to buy a pint of milk.
"Not for a mile or two."
Duncan puffed out his cheeks, a gesture, he realized even as he was making it, intended to prepare the way for the decision he'd already made. He could have gone behind a hedge; he could have left that second, walked back to the BART station and found a café, walked back again if he needed to. Which he didn't, really, because he'd seen all there was to see. That was the root of the problem. If more had been . . . laid on for people like him, he wouldn't have had to create his own excitement. It wouldn't have killed her to mark the significance of the place in some way, would it? With a discreet plaque or something? He hadn't been prepared for the mundanity of Juliet's house, just as he hadn't really been prepared for the malodorous functionality of the men's room in Minneapolis.
"A mile or two? I'm not sure I can wait that long."
"Up to you."
"Where's the key?"
"There's a loose brick in the porch there. Low down."
"And you're sure the key's still there? When did you
"Honestly? I went in just before you came. I didn't take a single thing. But I can never believe that I'm standing in Juliet's house, you know? Fucking Juliet, man!"
Duncan knew that he and Elliott weren't the same. Elliott had surely never written about Crowe—or, if he had, the work would almost certainly have been unpublishable. Duncan also doubted whether Elliott had the emotional maturity to appreciate the breathtaking accomplishment of Juliet (which, as far as Duncan was concerned, was a darker, deeper, more fully realized collection of songs than the overrated Blood on the Tracks), and nor would he have been able to cite its influences: Dylan and Leonard Cohen, of course, but also Dylan Thomas, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, Shelley, the Book of Job, Camus, Pinter, Beckett and early Dolly Parton. But people who didn't understand all this might look at them and decide, erroneously, that they were similar in some way. Both of them had the same need to stand in fucking Juliet's house, for example. Duncan followed Elliott down the short driveway to the house and watched as the boy groped for the key and opened the door.
The house was dark—all the blinds were down—and smelled of incense, or maybe some kind of exotic potpourri. Duncan couldn't have lived with it, but presumably Julie Beatty and her family weren't sick with nerves all the time when they were in residence, the way Duncan was feeling now. The smell sharpened his fear and made him wonder whether he might throw up.
He'd made an enormous mistake, but there was no undoing it. He was inside, so even if he didn't use the toilet, he'd still committed the crime. Idiot. And idiot boy, too, for persuading him that this was a good idea. "So there's a small toilet down here, and it's got some cool stuff on the walls. Cartoons and shit. But the bathroom upstairs, you see her makeup and towels and everything. It's spooky. I mean, not spooky to her, probably. But spooky if you only kind of half believe she even existed." Duncan understood the appeal of seeing Julie Beatty's makeup absolutely, and his understanding added to his sense of self-loathing.
"Yes, well, I haven't got time to mess around," said Duncan, hoping that Elliott wouldn't point out the obvious holes in the assertion. "Just point me toward the downstairs one."
They were in a large hallway with several doors leading off it. Elliott nodded at one of them, and Duncan marched toward it briskly, an Englishman with pressing West Coast
business appointments who'd troweled some time out of his hectic schedule to stand on a sidewalk, and then break into someone's house for the hell of it.
He made the pee as splashy as possible, just to prove to Elliott that the need was genuine. He was disappointed by the promised artwork, however. There were a couple of cartoons, one of Julie and one of a middle-aged man who still looked something like the old photos Duncan had seen of her husband, but they looked like they'd been done by one of those artists who hang out at tourist traps, and in any case they were both post-Tucker, which meant that they could have been pictures of any American middle-class couple. He was washing his hands in the
tiny sink when Elliott shouted through the door, "Oh, and there's the drawing. That's still up in their dining room."
"The drawing that Tucker did of her, back in the day."
Duncan opened the door and stared at him.
"What do you mean?"
"You know Tucker's an artist, right?"
"No." And then, because this made him sound like an amateur, "Well, yes. Of course. But I didn't know . . . " He didn't know what he didn't know, but Elliott didn't notice.
"Yeah," said Elliott. "In here."
The dining room was at the back of the house, with French windows leading out onto a terrace, presumably, or a lawn—there were curtains drawn over them. The drawing was hung over the fireplace, and it was big, maybe four feet by three, a head-and-shoulders portrait of Julie in profile, half squinting through her cigarette smoke at something in the middle distance. She looked, in fact, as if she were studying another work of art. It was a beautiful portrait, reverential and romantic, but not idealized—it was too sad, for a start. It somehow seemed to suggest the impending end of his relationship with the sitter, although of course Duncan might have been imagining that. He might have been imagining the meaning, he might have been imagining the power and charm. Indeed, he could have been imagining the drawing itself.
Duncan moved in closer. There was a signature in the bottom left-hand corner, and that was thrilling enough to require separate examination and contemplation. In a quarter of a century of fandom, he'd never seen Tucker's handwriting. And while he was staring at the signature, he realized something else: that for the first time since 1986 he hadn't been able to respond to a piece of work by Crowe. So he stopped looking at the signature and stepped back to look at the picture again.
"You should really see it in the daylight," said Elliott.
He drew back the curtains on the French windows, and almost immediately they found themselves staring at a gardener mowing the lawn. He saw them and started shouting and gesticulating, and before Duncan knew it, he was out the front door and halfway up the road, running and sweating, his legs shaking with nerves, his heart pounding so hard he thought he might not make it to the end of the street and possible safety.
It wasn't until the doors on the BART closed behind him that he felt safe. He'd lost Elliott almost immediately—he'd run out of that house as fast as he could, but the boy was faster, and almost immediately out of sight. And he never wanted to see him again anyway. It had been pretty much all his fault, there was no doubt about that; he'd provided both the temptation and the means to break in. Duncan had been stupid, yes, but his powers of reasoning had been scrambled by his bladder, and . . . Elliott had corrupted him, was the truth of it. Scholars like him were always going to be vulnerable to the excesses of obsessives, because, yes, they shared a tiny strand of the same DNA. His heart rate began to slow. He was calming himself down with the familiar stories he always told himself when doubt crept in.
When the train stopped at the next station, however, a Latino who looked a little like the gardener in the back garden got into Duncan's car, and his stomach shot toward his knees while his heart leaped halfway up his windpipe, and no amount of self-justification could help him put his internal organs back where they belonged.
What really frightened him was how spectacularly his transgression had paid off. All these years he'd done nothing more than read and listen and think, and though he'd been stimulated by these activities, what had he uncovered, really? And yet by behaving like a teenage hooligan with a screw loose, he had made a major breakthrough. He was the only Crowologist in the world (Elliott was nobody's idea of a Crowologist) who knew about that picture, and he could never tell anyone about it, unless he wished to own up to being mentally unbalanced. Every other year spent on his chosen subject had been barren compared to the last couple of hours. But that couldn't be the way forward, surely? He didn't want to be the kind of man who plunged his arms into trash cans in the hope of finding a letter, or a piece of bacon rind that Crowe might have chewed. By the time he got back to the hotel, he had convinced himself he was finished with Tucker Crowe.
THE FREE ENCYCOPEDIA
Juliet, released in April 1986, is singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe's sixth and (at the time of writing) last studio album. Crowe went into retirement later that year and has made no music of any kind since. At the time it received ecstatic reviews, although like the rest of Crowe's work it sold only moderately, reaching number 29 on the Billboard charts. Since then, however, it has been widely recognized by critics as a classic breakup album to rank with Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and Springsteen's Tunnel of Love. Juliet tells the story of Crowe's relationship with Julie Beatty, a noted beauty and L.A. scenester of the early eighties, from its beginnings ("And You Are?") to its bitter conclusion ("You and Your Perfect Life"), when Beatty returned to her husband, Michael Posey. The second side of the album is regarded as one of the most tortured sequences of songs in popular music.
Various musicians who played on the album have talked about Crowe's fragile state of mind during the recording of the album. Scotty Phillips has described how Crowe came at him with an oxyacetylene torch before the guitarist's incendiary solo on "You and Your Perfect Life."
In one of his last interviews, Crowe expressed surprise at the enthusiasm for the record. "Yeah, people keep telling me they love it. But I don't really understand them. To me, it's the sound of someone having his fingernails pulled out. Who wants to listen to that?"
Julie Beatty claimed in a 1992 interview that she no longer owned a copy of Juliet. "I don't need that in my life. If I want someone yelling at me for forty-five minutes, I'll call my mother."
Various musicians, including the late Jeff Buckley, Michael Stipe and Peter Buck of REM, and Chris Martin of Coldplay, have talked about the influence of Juliet on their careers. Buck's side project The Minus Five and Coldplay both recorded songs for the tribute album released in 2002, Wherefore Art Thou?.
1) And You Are?
3) We're in Trouble
4) In Too Deep
5) Who Do You Love?
1) Dirty Dishes
2) The Better Man
3) The Twentieth Call of the Day
4) Blood Ties
5) You and Your Perfect Life
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Read this book in galleys and, after a slow start, couldn't help liking it. As with a lot of people, I suppose, I've enjoyed movie adaptations of Hornby's books (e.g., High Fidelity and About a Boy) without ever turning to the books themselves. I confess I spent a lot of time reading Juliet, Naked envisioning it as a movie (I'll go on record predicting that Emma Thompson will play Anne), and I suspect Hornby does the same. But that's a good thing. His writing is direct, uncomplicated, unshowy -- almost unliterary, if you will. And thanks to his characters mostly being in "the middle way" -- that is, older than younger -- as I am I may have appreciated it more than would someone, say, under 30 (or maybe even 40). That said, though it focuses on a fictional washed up American pop singer you needn't be a huge music fan to appreciate the story line. Similarly, the English Hornby does a fine job of handling the collision of English and American characters and their preconceptions and prejudices. So give it a go, and if you're impatient after 50 pages try another 50. Hornby takes a while to warm up. But when he does, I found his characters and their issues involving and entertaining.
Juliet, Naked is the seventh novel by British author, Nick Hornby. Thirty-nine-year-old former teacher, Annie Platt is curator of the museum in Gooleness, a dead-end seaside town in the north of England. Duncan, her partner of some fifteen years, is a teacher and the moderator of a website dedicated to a reclusive American singer/songwriter from the nineteen-eighties, Tucker Crowe. Annie has been telling her (rather too judgemental) therapist, Malcolm every Saturday morning that she feels dissatisfied with her relationship, her job, her life. As she thinks about fifteen wasted years with Duncan and wishes for a baby, events conspire to suddenly put her in contact with the elusive Tucker Crowe. Since Tucker’s disappearance from the music scene, the internet chat rooms have been buzzing speculation about the cause of his withdrawal, and reported sightings, none of it remotely close to the truth. Hornby employs narrations from his three main characters as well as Wikipedia entries, emails and website discussion group posts to tell his tale. His characters are realistically flawed, multi-dimensional and appealing: even the nerdy Duncan will strike a chord with readers. As well as examining the fine line between passion and obsession, Hornby touches on the right to privacy, settling for what is convenient and acting responsibly. This novel comments perceptively on the often ridiculous over-analysis in which scholars, connoisseurs and self-styled experts of music, wine, sport, art and literature habitually indulge, when discussing the object of their fervour. Hornby treats the reader to some marvellously descriptive prose: “Consistency and repetition were beginning to make the lie feel something like the truth, in the way that a path eventually becomes a path, if enough people walk along it” and “Mumbled greetings were formed in his sons’ throats and emitted with not quite enough force to reach him; they dropped somewhere on the floor at the end of the bed, left for the cleaners to sweep up” are just two examples. There are some thought-provoking themes, an abundance of laugh-out-loud moments and plenty of wit. A delightful read.
2.5 Stars This was my first Nick Hornby novel and it will probably be my only Nick Hornby novel. I haven't seen the film of Juliet, Naked but the premise intrigued me - a mixture of musician-worship and what happens when you meet those you worship juggled with getting older and feeling dead-ended by life. I think we all have a tendency to almost fetishise the music of our youth but sometimes that can go too far and for Duncan it has gone way too far. My issues really started with Annie making contact with the elusive Tucker Crowe. I just found it all too unrealistic and the burgeoning of that relationship felt somehow seedy and had more than a faint whiff of being very disturbing. I cannot pinpoint exactly why it made me feel this way but it did and I sort of galloped through the last third of the book, not because I wanted to find out what happened but, rather more prosaically, because I wanted it all to be over. The only things that salvaged this for me where the early chapters dealing with Duncan's obsession with not only Tucker Crowe's music but in the almost mythical being he had become. His pilgrimage, with Annie in tow, was rather touching in a lot of ways. His then reaction to the new release of previously unheard recordings was wonderfully wrought - particularly his misgivings in the aftermath of publishing his review to the devoted fan base online. I also found the sections from Tucker's perspective to be actually well handled, at least in the earlier portions of the tale, with his rather acerbic and phlegmatic voice being distinct from the other characters. For me Annie was just there and I couldn't work up any strength of feeling for the character at all. I did want to see the Shark's Eye though - sounds like the best bit of the exhibition to me. Overall a well written book - I could appreciate the craft of the writer if not his tale - but not one for me and one that has made me rethink trying any of Mr Hornby's back or future catalogue.
I read this in one sitting with several glasses of wine and I think it was the right context. I certainly enjoyed the experience. I could strongly relate to the characters (Annie is my age and my choices haven't been all that different) even when I didn't particularly like them. Some I disliked. Some I liked but disapproved of. But they all rang pretty true. And the internet messageboard culture was dead on, except for some drastically underestimated post counts in the final section. It's a very funny book, although sometimes that pushed into too-precious Richard Curtis territory. And some epiphanies were heavy-handed. I would have had a different reading experience if I had any interest in music (gasp!), but I don't know whether it would have been better or worse.
Duncan is obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a rocker who 20 years ago produced an exceptional album, Juliet, and then suddenly disappeared after cancelling some concerts. He is considered an expert, a Crowologist. Annie is his girlfriend of 15 years. They never married, never had children. A union of convenience in their small town of Gooleness, England.When Julient, Naked, actually the stripped down demo version of the prior album is issued, Annie decides to write a review on Duncan's blog. Of course, her opinion is diametrically opposed to his. Not only that, he makes her feel stupid when she disagrees with him. Thus, her doubts about their relationship begin to grow.How astonished is she when she receives an e-mail from Tucker Crowe himself, thanking her for her honest opinion and agreeing with her. Thus begins an e-mail correspondence that ends with them meeting.Both Annie and Tucker have a lot in common. They are both mournful of their lost years, Annie's spent with Duncan and his obsession, and Tucker's wasted with no music making, no work, much of the time drunk, failed relationships. Who of us has not wondered where the years went and what we have to show for it. There are some funny and some sad moments and the ending, well, you figure that out.My criticism was that the book was longer than necessary. A lopped off 50 pages would have reduced some of the repetition. Having said that, I did want to see how it ended and I did enjoy it. If you're a Hornby fan, I"m sure you'll enjoy it. If you haven't read Hornby, I'd certainly give it a try. I'd be tempted to read another one of his books.
My personal Nick Hornby career was literally ¿A Long Way Down¿. 5 stars for ¿High Fidelity¿, 4 stars for ¿About a Boy¿, 3 for ¿Fever Pitch¿ (ok, the book was better but I don¿t like Arsenal), 2 for ¿A Long Way Down¿ and one for ¿Slam¿. So why did I buy (and read) ¿Naked¿? First because I was curious what would come next after one star. Second because someone from my NY-community told me that Neil Young had a short appearance in ¿Naked¿ as he had in ¿High Fidelity¿. If only with ¿Farmer John¿ from the ¿Ragged Glory¿ album, but more than nothing. And this time I was not disappointed. Admittedly the story is a little far-fetched and constructed and reminds me of some Hollywood plots for the X-mas season (my suggestion: Jack Nicholson as Tucker and Renée Zellweger as Annie). And there is this kind of bourgeois message that only parenthood and hard work give your life any meaning (¿The two biggest parts of a man¿s life were his family and his work,¿¿, p. 225). But there are wonderful episodes and characters that are really funny just like in ¿High Fidelity¿. First of all (though only as a supporting actor) Malcolm the judgemental psychiatrist who drives Annie crazy with his grandfatherly advice. ¿Malcolm went quiet. Annie knew that this was a technique analysts were supposed to use. If they waited long enough, then the person undergoing analysis would eventually shout out ¿I slept with my father!¿ and everyone could go home.¿ (p. 83) Then there is this Tucker Crowe fan-club on the internet (the so-called ¿Crowologists¿) which only consists of superstitious (and patronizing!) retards who would not even recognize their idol if he came to visit them singing ¿You And Your Perfect Life¿ (Tucker¿s most famous song). And ¿ last but not least ¿ there is Terry who leads a museum but should be exposed there as the most stupid. ¿All the more to have a drink, then. Always helps me, when I¿m under the weather.¿ [Terry:] ¿He¿s not under the weather,¿ said Annie. ¿He¿s a recovering alcoholic.¿ ¿Oh, you¿d just be normal here. When in Rome and all that.¿ (p. 233)
I haven't read a Nick Hornby book in a while and I did enjoy this one. I think he's at his best when writing about music and people's obsession with it. It was a bit frustrating at times because I couldn't stop wondering what Tucker Crowe's Juliet would have sounded like. A quick read and nothing really spectacular.
This novel is about three people: Duncan an English man-child obsessed with an American singer/songwriter who abruptly quit show business in the 1980s, his long-suffering girlfriend Annie who is realizing that she may never have children, and the retired musician himself Tucker Crowe who is trying to raise his six-year old son after failing to be a good father to four other children. Annie & Duncan break up after Duncan's infidelity and at the same time a review Annie posts on Duncan's internet message board attracts the attention of Tucker. Annie & Tucker develop an online correspondence and soon - surprise - he has reason to visit England.This novel has a lot of the same themes of Hornby's other works - music, geeky obsessions, muddled relationships, parenting, and recognizing one's own mortality. I really couldn't get into to at first because the characters were annoying me especially since they kept talking about a fictional musician. 80 pages in, when Tucker finally appears, I started to warm up to it. For all his flaws, I like Tucker for his relationship with his young son (albeit if that son doesn't seem to act 6 years old). But then the book just falls apart with far too many unlikely happenings and the characters not responding in a real way but more like sitcom characters.Yes, I'm harsh on this book. It is an entertaining, quality brain candy read. On the other hand I know Hornby is capable of much better.
Not one of Hornby's best, but still good. Like Tucker, the creator of Juliet and Juliet Naked, the book had great promise, but never quite lived up to it.To make matters more frustrating, it starts strong - with two common Hornby themes at the forefront - music and obsession. Unfortunately, as the book moves forward it loses steam - it loses its edge. At one point, it takes on a bit of a romantic comedy movie feel - and it never quite recovers fully from that. Still, Hornby at less than top form offers more than many other writers. Not his best, but I did enjoy enough of it to be happy my son gave it to me as a gift.
I thought the characters were engaging, (and it was all about the characters) and the story was amusing and thoughful.
I always find Hornby's writing very enjoyable, and this was no different, even if it did tail off a bit towards the end. It's story of a reclusive Amercan ex-musician (Tucker Crowe) with one classic album to his name (Juliet, plus an album of demos, Juliet Naked), an obsessive fan and his long suffering girlfriend. Their lives intertwine after the girlfriend posts a review of Tucker's 'Juliet Naked'. What follows is typical Hornby - messy relationships, complicated family life, well described locations with plenty of character. As I said at the start, it did seem to tail of a bit towards the end, and I didn't find the ending particularly satisfying, but still, the book, as whole, was hugely enjoyable
Every now and then I come across a book that gets me. You know, like a book that you have to talk to in the middle of a quiet bookstore cafe. You¿ll be sitting there and you feel like you either have to turn to the person next to you and say, ¿Dude, you have to read this; it¿s hysterical¿ or you¿re just going to come right out and say, aloud, to the book, ¿You¿re good, you¿.I¿ve read several good books, lately, but nothing that I felt needed to be proclaimed to my fellow bookstore sitters. That is, of course, until Juliet, Naked. It¿s hilarious. I mean, a hands down, on the floor laughing, gigglefest. It might not be funny at all if you don¿t know an obsessive music fan or two, anyone who participates in online chats or anyone who has ever been caught up in fan based hysteria.If you know a few, though, (I¿m looking at you, rabid American Idol fans), it might just leave you tickled.Hornby¿s novel straddles the Atlantic, following a pretty museum curator, her Tucker Crowe-obsessed nerd of a boyfriend and the myth, the legend, Tucker Crowe. (For anyone who¿s watched the spectacularly cheesy CW show Gossip Girl, Crowe is a dead ringer for Rufus Humphry.) What starts as a simple enough, gray enough story about a mediocre relationship in a worn out seaside town in England, becomes a courting confusion worthy of Midsummer Night¿s Dream.When Annie and Duncan call it quits after 15 years, thanks to many factors but a large one of which is Duncan¿s obsession with Crowe, it sends their lives in two depressingly downward spirals. Annie¿s is snagged upward, though, by a chance internet encounter with the one and only Tucker Crowe.Between washed up relationships, washed up singers and washed up sharks, the story zigzags through watery England and Midwestern America, dragging Duncan, Tucker, Annie and a pack of illegitimate offspring and ex-wives along for the ride.Hornby¿s dialogue and inner monologue are both to die for. On first pass, they seem stark and realistic but, on second glance, they have that post-post-modern edge that makes everything absurd and witty. I¿m terrified to read anything else by Hornby for fear that it will be of the same formula but I might just risk it for laughter¿s sake.
I really liked this book. In fact, I had trouble putting it down. My only objection was the continual cropping up of the F-word. I really hate it, I really do.This was a fun story, and what really caught me was the twist of fate that allowed Annie to experience the exact thing her boyfriend would have given just about anything for. I liked the sort of running commentary on being stuck in a rut, competing with obsessions, feckless behavior and how it effects others and the caricatures of English people (stiff upper lip, that sort of thing). The ending made me laugh. A great read (if you can stomach the F-word). OK - and I confess guiltily - being somewhat amused at the use of said nasty word as someone's name. I'm not proud of it...
I found this to be the weakest of his novels to date.
Another good Hornsby...interesting people, inside the music scene, almost last chances grabbed
This is my least favorite of several Hornby books, I've read. My favorites: About a Boy and A Long Way Down. The story is very engaging until the end: I was disappointed by the resolution.
Excellent! Love Nick Hornby's style. So easy to read that I devoured it in under a day. It was the perfect book to follow up "Arab and Jew" with, because I needed something light and fluffy as opposed to heavy and dense.
Annie is 39 years old, childless and living with her boyfriend Duncan in a boring little village called Gooleness, in the northern part of England. Duncan has one interest in life, a Cohen/Dylan inspired American musician named Tucker Crowe. Crowe disappeared from the spotlight after a little trip to a toilet in a local pub in 1986. A small group of dedicated fans, lead by Duncan, have spent the last fifteen years running a website and analyzing Crowe's music. They speculate in his disappearance and make up theories on what he might be up to at present time. Just like Hornby¿s break-through novel [High Fidelity], [Juliet, Naked] is a story about geeky music fans. The book opens with Duncan¿s pilgrimage in the US, following Tucker Crowes footsteps across the continent. Duncan is of course in the lead, followed by a reluctant Annie, the books real protagonist. She is passive, childless and sick and tired of Duncan and everything concerning Tucker Crowe. Then, out of the blue, there is a new Tucker Crowe album on the market. The album is a second recording of Crowes most popular album, Juliet, rereleased as Juliet, Naked. This is when change is set to happen in Duncan, Annie and Tucker Crowes lives.This is the story of ¿fifteen years later¿, of not loving your partner, of stagnation and indifference. It is also the story of change and taking responsibility of your own life and actions. The book was ok, not bad, not brilliant, but ok. There was a lot about music, which is great. I have to admit I had to Google Tucker Crowe to see if he was a real artist, (SPOILER)but he was not.
Juliet, Naked is about Annie who is in a miserable, dead end relationship. She knows there could be more out there for her but isn't sure what or who and if that's what she wants. Her boyfriend (Duncan) is obsessed with Tucker Crowe - a singer/songwriter from the 80s who up and quit with no explanation - and has started a fan website in his honor.Annie writes a review of an album for the website and Tucker contacts her to thank her for her honest review. From there Annie and Tucker form a relationship and it blossoms from there.
Not Nick's best book, but an enjoyable read none the less.
Nick Hornby, in Juliet, Naked, returns to the world in which many of his fans met him for the first time: that of pop music and the music¿s obsessed super-fans. Readers of High Fidelity will certainly feel comfortable with the setting and characters of Juliet, Naked, but there is a twist to the story this time. Unlike in High Fidelity, which focused on a group of young pop culture fanatics, the main characters in this 2009 novel are old enough to know better. But they don¿t often act like it.Tucker Crowe is an American musician who went into self-chosen exile just a few months after creating Juliet, an album that has become a cult classic ¿ in large part, of course, because of its association with Crowe¿s disappearance. Twenty years later, he is said to be living alone on a farm, so successfully isolated that not even a decent picture of him has been seen in all that time. Duncan and Annie, in the meantime, are living their own lives in a lifeless little English seaside town. The two are not married, but have been together for fifteen years, so Annie has grown accustomed to Duncan¿s preoccupation with Tucker Crowe and Juliet. Annie, for her part, has heard the songs from Juliet so many times that they have become part of her life, too, but she is not part of the Tucker Crowe cult that has grown up around the album. Duncan, on the other hand, considers himself to be the founding member of that cult. He spends hours every day listening to the music and discussing Tucker Crowe sightings and rumors on the internet with the group that meets there every day.Things get complicated when Duncan mysteriously receives a bootlegged copy of Juliet, Naked ¿ a basic, stripped-down version of the songs on Crowe¿s masterpiece album, Juliet. Duncan not only shares the music with the Tucker Crowe cult, he posts a gushing review of the new songs in which he claims they are even better than the commercial version of Juliet. It is Annie¿s reaction to the stripped-down songs, however, that will forever change the lives of her, Duncan, and Tucker Crowe.Juliet, Naked, at its heart, is a book about second chances. Even Tucker Crowe, himself, admits to himself that he is pretty much a failure. Multiple marriages have produced children he barely knows, and his current marriage (one that has given him a six-year-old son he adores) seems to be doomed. Tucker has not worked at his music, or anything else, since he walked away from it all. He knows there has to be more to life, and he is ready for it. Annie, fast approaching middle age and yearning for a baby, is beginning to regret the fifteen years of her life she may have wasted on Duncan, a man pretty much content with the life they have.When fate, with a big assist from the Internet, contrives to bring the three face-to-face, Tucker, Annie, and Duncan find that they have a lot to learn about each other ¿ and, more importantly, about themselves.Rated at: 4.0
The story is about a reclusive washed-up 'feckless and indolent' singer-songwriter from the 80's, his deluded greatest fan, and the girlfriend who's along for the ride. (Strangely, Hornby's books always make me think - which character would Hugh Grant play?) It's humorous and edgy, the characters are well-defined, and the story had my attention all the way through. I didn't skim or skip anything, read every page, which at this time is an excellent indicator for me that the book did it's job. Four stars from me! And I liked the ending...although many reviewers didn't.
Tucker Crowe mysteriously walks away from rock n' roll while touring with his successful album, Juliet. For twenty years, he's hidden away, living a recluse life. All that's left are a group of dedicated aficionados, who people the Internet, parsing his lyrics and analyzing his life and music for other influences. Chief among these is blogger Duncan, considered a Crowe expert. Duncan also teaches at a small community college in Gooleness, a dilapidated English seaside town, where he lives with his girlfriend, Annie. Annie finds their life together every bit as shabby and tired as their town. The novel opens as Duncan receives a soon to be released acoustic CD, Juliet, Naked. Atwitter over this first news and music from Crowe in decades, Duncan immediately posts a glowing and rhapsodic review on the main Crowe website. Annie, hardly a cultist, puts up her first post on the site, taking an opposite but thoughtful view. Amazingly, Tucker Crowe himself emails her, starting a relationship that moves from 'pen pals' to ... Hornby's tale resonates on many levels, touching on parenthood, relationships, redemption and fulfillment (or lack of it.) For me, more thought provoking was his riffs on the role of music and art for the artists and the audience. Readers of High Fidelity and About a Boy will know that this is not unfamiliar ground for Hornby. The references to Bruce Springsteen I found particularly telling - related to a Boss fanatic, and having read the fanblog, Backstreets, I know firsthand the extremes to which his followers go in wringing every last ounce of meaning from his every utterance and lyric. Tucker Crowe's album, Juliet, has been misinterpreted completely beyond it's orginal intent.I'm sure that this isn't just a musical phenomenon. In college English Lit courses, as professors droned about hidden meaning and imputed tenuous influences, I often wondered if Shakespeare or Keats actually considered any of this. More importantly, though, does it matter? Does art need an audience to be art? Once art is bequeathed to the audience, what role does it play in adding to it's meaning and import? Heady stuff to ponder. Thanks Mr. Hornby for the thought provoking and entertaining book.
Once again Hornby does an outstanding job with a woman's voice. Great story with some nice modern touches (email, online forums, iPods). Strangely, he seems to leave the male characters lacking. It was a very fast read - I finished it in a day's worth of traveling and airport waiting. Juliet, Naked is much lighter than, say, A Long Way Down but it also includes some great musings on music and pop culture, with Hornby's characteristic sense of humor. Recommended and if you like this one, check out his book How to be Good, which has a stronger female protagonist and even goofier men.
I was disappointed with the ambiguous ending in Nick Hornby's latest novel, Juliet, Naked. Hornby carefully constructed a brilliant and innovative storyline, yet gave up writing at the end. Instead, he leaves his readers to their own devices to decide whether there was a happy or sad ending. Simple laziness on Hornby's part. That being said, the negatives of the novel are out of the way, and I can easily say Hornby has created a wonderful new story. All 400 pages were a delight to read and seemed even more introspective and philosophical than his other novels, while retaining an entertaining element that made the book difficult to put down. He explores the depths of his characters' thoughts and emotions and ponders them in a way akin to a Tom Robbins novel. Hornby examines the movement into middle-age and what that means for a person in terms of growth and dealing with regrets. He wraps it in an arts-focused package that most readers can relate to. Nick Hornby moves himself further into the realm of great modern novelist with Juliet, Naked. The profound ideas and contemplation of life today is wonderful to read.