Alli’s #CBR5 Review #8: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

So this was not a big year for me and reading clearly. This is another audio book review because what I did have a lot of this year as driving. Nick Hornby is another author that I willpretty much read anything that he puts forth so that is why I gave “A Long Way Down” a listen to. It was an interesting book to listen to as it is a story told from multiple perspectives and they decided to use multiple voice actors to read this tale. It made things amusing as you get to hear the actors impersonate the other characters in funny voices.

Read the rest on my blog 

Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #58: Songbook by Nick Hornby


I am finding that while I really enjoy Nick Hornby’s fiction (especially About a Boy and How to be Good), I just can’t get into his non-fiction work. I tried Fever Pitch last year and couldn’t finish it (rare for me), and found Songbook — while a quick, easy read — to be dull as well.

I think the issue is that I just don’t relate to what he writes about, and he’s not trying to write to someone who doesn’t share his experiences. For instance, Fever Pitch is meant to be read by a British soccer fan. I’m neither British nor a soccer fan (and I will totally admit I picked this book up thinking it would be baseball like the movie because I am dumb). I don’t understand the first thing about clubs and these fans. And he doesn’t try to explain either — he’s writing for someone who loves the sport. Which is fine — that’s just not me.

Songbook is a collection of essays about music. I like music! But Nick Hornby is a 56 year old British man, and I am a 27 year old American woman, and our musical tastes just do not overlap. It’s still interesting to read his essays in that you can tell this man has great enthusiasm for his subject, and he’s definitely a good writer. But I think I’ll stick to his fictional novels from now on.

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR5 Review #16: Fever Pitch

For how this review of more modern London living relates back to the tried-and-true Rumpole and other classic British monuments, look at my regular blog: The Scruffy Rube

Fever PitchI was happy to find in Hornby ‘s work a memoir for a thinking sports fan (something I aspire to be on two other websites). It’s a great guide for academics who want to see exactly what drives an otherwise sane man to spend a large portion of his weekend (not to mention his salary) supporting a collection of athletes who don’t really know that he exists. Hornsby’s passion sears the pages, his concern and elation  for formations and strategies of his beloved Arsenal eleven are apparent from the first word to the last. It shows how, in a city as teeming and varied as London, you can still create an identity through a community, even if it’s just one that wears the same jersey as you on match days.

Unfortunately for Hornby, and–I imagine–many other fans, the sporting community of twenty years ago has changed. Arsenal no longer play at Hornsby’s beloved Highbury, but at a gargantuan beast of a place called “Air Emirates Stadium” a mile away. The old 1-0 grind out Gunners that Hornsby found an affection for have been replaced by a whirling collection of international stars (I recall Indian students complaining that the numerous French players on Arsenal made it less of an English team than a French one). Hornsby’s sincere admiration for fans of less dominant teams (your Nottingham Forests, Cambridge Uniteds and Wolverhamptons) is positively quaint in an age when, walking into sports shops throughout the country I could only see jerseys for Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Hornby’s book, though academically intriguing is limited by the greatest limitation a sports fan has: sometimes the rest of the world thinks you’re speaking an alien language. Even I, a would be serious futbol fan, was utterly clueless about who on earth he was referring to for most of the book (just as Hornsby would be dumbfounded if I spent pages debating the relative worth of Brendan Harris versus Al Newman–give yourself credit if you know either of those two men). Sports fans thrive on sharing their community with others, but when writing about it, we risk shuttering the doors against anyone who’s not already part of the community. Worse still, those of us who relish the chance to discuss our community’s past are often held captive as time marches on and the community around us changes too. When that happens (as it does with Fever Pitch) you’re robbed of connecting the past to the present and learning what it all means and how it all relates.

I’m a fan, of English literature, and English culture, and English sports. But that doesn’t mean I understand what it is to be English as intimately and personally as those who actually are English. A little help from a smart writer like Mr. Hornby, will always be appreciated. A little more help will always be required.

iamnothamlet’s #CBR5 Review #35: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

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Tucker Crowe recorded a few albums, including one great one, and then abruptly quit the music business, disappearing from public view for two decades and driving his small but dedicated superfans into hysterics. When his record label releases a new version of that classic album stripped down to the essentials, it sparks a chain reaction of surprising potency that will eventually envelop Crowe himself.

Duncan and Annie are a quiet, childless couple in a sleepy seaside town in England, where they seem to destined to live out the rest of their lives in tranquility. Their biggest bone of contention is Duncan’s obsession with Tucker Crowe. So when Annie intercepts the advance copy of Juliet, Naked addressed to Duncan, and then has the audacity to dislike the album as well, their relationship is irrevocably altered.


Though occasionally Juliet, Naked displays the kind of cultural insight that Nick Hornby is famous for, especially in its dissection of obsession and fandom, on the whole it is a lesser work for the author, hampered by a sense of tediousness and a lack of real stakes. The plotting is a little too conventional, the attempts to integrate modern-day epistolary tactics too ham-handed, and the dialogue much too arch and self-satisfied.

Of course, Mr. Hornby is entirely too good a writer for any book of his to be a waste of time, and Juliet, Naked does contain several well-realized and humanized characters. And it’s moral, that no matter how much time one has wasted, a life is not fully wasted until it’s over, is a good and unusual one for fiction.

Still, it is hard not to make comparisons to the author’s other work, and everything here seems duller, wearier, and more sedated. A nice ending isn’t enough to fully salvage the book, just as a great final track can’t save a so-so album.

iamnothamlet’s #CBR5 Review #34: About a Boy by Nick Hornby

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This is a fun book to read. Hornby hides behind pop culture, football, and ephemera, but he’s really an astute observer of the human condition. In About a Boy, he has created a bevy of naturalistic, complicated, conflicted, and compelling characters, with inner lives and their own unique outlooks on life.

Will Freeman is an idler living off the royalties of the worst thing his father ever did, compose a stupid novelty Christmas song. Will doesn’t mind not having a job, in fact he finds it hard to believe most people can handle a job and their personal lives. But a bout of inspiration changes Will’s life forever when he decides to lie about having a child in order to meet and sleep with single mothers.

Meanwhile, Marcus is an awkward, sheltered 12-year-old boy whose divorced, depressed mother Fiona is inhibiting his social skills to a dangerous degree. Her strident distaste for modern music, sports, fashion, and television has left her son the only kid in school who doesn’t know Kurt Cobain or any of the starting 11 for Manchester United.

Eventually, their three lives, and a few other characters’, will intertwine in surprising and interesting ways. One of the novel’s chief assets is that Hornby never settles for the predictable or the comfortable. You might think you know where the story is going, but you’ll be wrong.

Hornby’s humor shines brightest in his illogically logical dialogue. Whenever two of Hornby’s characters talk, they are futilely trying to understand each other, with hilarious results. But if you look past the hilarity, you’ll realize that these characters have worldviews grounded in their experiences and their struggles with the world around them. This is truly a great work of fiction.

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #62: Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby


My disappointment with Fever Pitch can be traced back to three main things. First of all, I have zero interest in the sport of soccer, my eyes glazing over whenever he spoke of the nitty-gritty of the game. The games themselves serve as set dressing, in a sense, for the book, meaning it shouldn’t have been as noteworthy a drawback as it was. I must emphasize, though, how complete my disinterest in soccer is. I would rather watch men drive around in circles (ovals to be exact) for hours than soccer. At least with NASCAR, I can see how it would be exhilarating to witness a race in person. I can imagine the thrill it gives fans to feel the sheer power of the race cars as they zip around the track. Soccer, by comparison, is a game I would care even less to see live. I’d be perpetually fearing for my life, that the fans would break into a disorderly mob and cut me down somehow. And, unless the seats were front and center, the view would be guaranteed to be atrocious. Hornby addresses both of these things at length in Fever Pitch, reaffirming my desire to avoid ever attending a soccer game.

Likewise, he underlines why I’ll never understand the obsessive fans sports accrue in massive numbers. When I was younger, helping people with questionable mental health sounded quite desirable to me. That being said, people like Hornby seem beyond saving in certain respects. I couldn’t laugh at his borderline insanity as I was too unsettled by it. The way he put soccer on this insurmountable pedestal, treating it as an experience beyond orgasmic and heavenly, sounded more like legitimate mental illness than mere obsession to me. Being this wrapped up in a sport you don’t actively participate in would be akin to centering your life around your child, who you live vicariously through. Treating their losses and victories as your own, and losing sight of your own life in the process. Maybe I’m overstating Hornby’s obsession, much the same as he himself did. My point is, though, that his thinking was as alien to me as Mark Vonnegut’s in The Eden Express.

Lastly, the blurbs on the back of the book had me expecting guffaws out the ass. Instead, I sat plain faced for the duration of the book, my eyes, as I already pointed out, glazing over rather often out of boredom. Even accounting for differences of taste, Hornby didn’t seem to take a great many stabs at humor. Once a page I’d see what I recognized as a failed joke attempt, but it never went much further than that. As with the above, I was again on the outside looking in, unable to comprehend what others saw in it. The sport, the obsession, the humor. It all fell on deaf ears (or, should I say blind eyes?) for me.


Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #33: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby


Juliet, Naked touches on a ton, but never really grabs onto anything with both hands. Any of the threads he picks in the span of telling this story could have sustained him for the length of a novel, and I wish he would’ve just picked one and stuck with it because it tries to be and say too many things at once and ends up failing at each.

He starts by looking at how obsessive fandom breeds the worst in people, with Duncan breaking and entering, as well as dumping his longtime girlfriend, all over a musician, Tucker Crowe. Then it shifts towards illuminating how little we really know about so-called celebrities. From there, he begins to draw parallels between Duncan and Crowe, before having them move in opposite directions that show how different the two actually are. Et cetera.

All decent enough ideas to work with, but he never really takes and runs with any of them, and so the novel just kind of moseys around from one thing to another until it just, sort of, ends. As such, I recommend it only to those who read and are enamored with Hornby.


Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #29: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby



Partway through reading this, I began to imagine the possibilities for improvement that a film adaptation would provide. For a book so dialogue heavy, one imagines it would lend itself beautifully to the medium. As long as the cast is appropriately assembled and capable of making their words spring from the screen much as they sprang from the page in Hornby’s novel.

To my surprise, an adaptation is already in the works starring Aaron Paul, Pierce Brosnan, Rosamund Pike, and Imogen Poots, about as picture-perfect a cast as could’ve been had. Seeing who they have to work with, I’m now certain it has all the potential to be better than the work it’s based upon.

Even if it ends up being a push, however, A Long Way Down should still function rather well as a film. The setup, four would-be suicides meeting atop a popular jumping spot and striking up a curious sort of friendship, and the story that grows out of it couldn’t be majorly tarnished by even that deflating ending of Hornby’s, so I imagine it would take a considerable effort to fudge so rich a concept.

Just lift the dialogue straight from the book itself, along with some of the narration from each of the four main characters, and perhaps Hollywood up the ending a little, and you have the makings of another successful Hornby adaptation.

Perhaps, though, I’m being too forgiving on account of my love for concepts that manage to be so simple yet, at the same time, so brilliant. As I said, the ending is one of those letdowns in which the story, for better or worse, just sort of ends. Further, there’s nothing life-changing about what’s contained within the bindings of this particular book. Part of me thinks that’s even the point.

But as I could tell from watching About a Boy and High Fidelity, as well as his collaboration with Ben Folds on the album Lonely Avenue, Hornby is, succinctly put, a naturally-gifted writer. Which is to say his style, his voice can bolster even the weakest of stories. And it’s that that I believe made A Long Way Downso hard to, well, put down.

Many would be quick to disagree with such a claim, a lot of them due largely to Hornby’s popularity, but I think just as many would agree. What’s important, though, is which side you happen to fall on, because it means the difference between “reader beware” and “read it.”


Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.