Tuesday, June 4, 2013

18: Juliet, Naked - Nick Hornby

“Hahahahahahahahahaha. I told you he was overrated. Now go and listen to everything MORRISSEY has ever sung, you muppets.”

“Nobody grew up or got bigger; no landmark occasions were commemorated, because there were none. Duncan and Annie just got slowly older, and a little fatter…Annie had single friends who’d never had kids, but their holiday photos, usually taken in exotic locations, were never boring – or rather, they didn’t feature the same two people over and over again, quite often wearing the same T-shirts and sunglasses, quite often sitting by the same swimming pool in the same hotel on the Amalfi coast.”

“The fact is, some of these myths are so colorful hat they have deterred me from re-entering the world; it seems to me that people were having more fun with me gone than they could ever have if I was around.”

With Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby proves that he can write about music in a world where only hipsters have record players, music stores are going extinct, and the internet takes up most of our lives (if you’re curious if he can write about a world without music at all, I highly recommend you check out A Long Way Down). Juliet, Naked, follows the above-quoted couple Annie and Duncan who are stuck. Their lives are agonizingly boring and at times frustrating to read; frustrating mostly because I see parts of myself that I dislike and parts of my friends that I dislike and when our lives are kind of boring we complain lots but can’t change anything because a lot of the time life is kind of boring – that’s why I read books to pretend that I have had a lot more interesting experiences than I have had. The frustration is what makes the bulk of the book – versions of Annie and Duncan are all over real life which makes them entirely real and sympathetic.

Annie has settled for Duncan, an ok bloke who is obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a musician who wrote one of the greatest albums of all time and then disappeared in the middle of a tour. He is obsessive, creepy, and sometimes lawbreaking in his need to analyze and re-analyze everything that is known about Tucker Crowe. The Internet has saved Duncan from being a weirdo though, because through it he can join message boards and converge with other weirdos and find a sense of family, community, and purpose that don’t exist in his real life. 

On the other side of the narrative voice is Annie who longs to have a richer life, but continually chooses to settle into whatever is safe and easy. The tension between her and Duncan rises and rises until Juliet, Naked (the acoustic version of Crowe’s famous album Juliet) arrives on their doorstep. Duncan writes a glowing review while Annie writes a tepid one…and Tucker Crowe sends her an e-mail.

The novel is multi-genre with shifting narratives which are two ways an author can easily win me over. Interspersed with the regular narrative perspectives of Annie, Duncan, and Tucker are e-mail exchanges and message board conversations, and Hornby hits the right voice for all of these – we don’t e-mail the way we talk and we don’t message board the way we e-mail. 

The ending is ambiguous, which is why I have been sitting on this review for about a week – I liked it, but I don’t know how I feel about it if that makes any sense. I just don't expect that sort of ending from the typical poplit novel, and I'm not sure if I want it. After my final day of sitting-on-the-review I have determined that with our new world we need new literature that captures it. We need books about message board communities, e-mail flirtations, long distance relationships, and artists who did one great thing and disappeared much to the disappointment of their fans, and because we don't have much of them, I'll accept this book as a successful endeavor. 

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