#38– Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Hornby has written another one. It’s brilliant, probably the best book he’s penned since “High Fidelity” and possible even better than it, although I’d like it better if the ending had felt a bit more resolved.

We follow Duncan, who is a manic fan of Tucker Crowe, a semi-Dylan, semi-Springsteen, semi-Leonard Cohen, semi-imaginary creation of Hornby. Crowe apparently experienced a life changing epiphany in a Minneapolis bathroom in 1986 and disappeared. Duncan runs an Internet site dedicated to studying Crowe’s every belch, whimper and fart, and the new rumors of same.

I have to break off here to say that yes, this does ring somewhat true in my own life. I am an equally semi-obsessive Dylan fan. Or maybe was. I can, or at one time could, listen to a few seconds of a version of “All Along the Watchtower” and probably tell you what year it was from. Maybe what tour. Probably who was playing on it. Likely even recommend a better specimen from the same time frame. I have a box of probably over 1,000 Dylan CD-Rs under a spare bed at my house. I certainly own all his albums, I’ve read a good deal of the meaningful books about him, have seen him live something like 16 times, and have spent way too many hours driving other perfectly sane people crazy about Bob Freaking Dylan.

Duncan’s longtime girlfriend and object of his Crowe-worship-torture, Annie, tries to tolerate his obsession. When Crowe releases a “new” album of old demos, it is Annie who hears what is really going on in the music. Partially to spite Duncan, she posts a review on the website. Lo and behold, about the time a cranky Duncan is taking up with a new woman, Tucker Crowe e-mails Annie and appreciates her insight into his work.

I won’t go through the rest of what happens. Even Crowe, who is Dylanish in his inability to take responsibility for his social failures (see Joan Baez, also secret marriage and child/ren, etc), comes off as an amazingly likeable character. I usually want to punch at least one of Hornby’s characters in the face. Not this time. And if I did, it would probably be Duncan.

Again, stepping back in, there was a big “guilty pleasure” factor in this book. I would laugh at the ridiculousness of Duncan’s behavior, and then think, “well, there was that one time when I dd such and such…” and realize that I wasn’t THAT much less ridiculous myself.

This was a very impressive book. Hornby just gets the male psyche. If we can’t BE Bob Dylan or Tom Brady or Barack Obama or whomever, we have to know EVERYTHING about them, and “understand” them completely. It’s utterly pathetic. And accurate. He also gets the female psyche. I like Annie as much as I like any character he has ever written. I’m heartbroken for her failures and problems and wish that just once, he’d broken out happily ever after for her. Maybe when they make it a movie.



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