I'm a Nick Hornby fanboy. My favorite books are his novels High Fidelity and About a Boy, and the movie adaptations for each also count among my favorites. Aside from an articulate discussion of the contemporary male psyche, the novels also contained a light, humorous prose that cleverly encapsulated the underlying loneliness of his characters.
His books were about people. They were also about music, books, and other aspects of popular culture that we use to define ourselves as persons. These things are often used to mask a certain emptiness made more apparent by the glimmer of human relationships, but they also make interesting lives that would otherwise be banal. His writing is simple, funny, honest, and heart-breaking, sometimes all at the same time.
"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"
-- High Fidelity
His last novel, How to Be Good, did not really speak to me the same way his other books did, probably because it focused on a middle-aged couple, but I did find it to be a good read. I'd been dying to read Fever Pitch, Hornby's breakthrough memoir about his passion for the football team Arsenal, but I hadn't been able to find a copy.
(It's also the same book that the Farrelly Brothers have adapted into a cheap Jimmy Fallon-Drew Barrymore movie. I mean, you've got Colin Farrell, John Cusack, Hugh Grant for all the previous Hornby adaptations, so why go with someone who looks like he gets his eyebrows waxed every weekend. Needless to say, I won't be watching this one until it's on HBO. But I digress.)
I was at Gateway on Sunday afternoon, whiling away the time, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the mall finally had a bookstore (Fully Booked, whose shelves were ironically still half-empty). I was delighted to find the (cheaper) pocketbook editions of Hornby's books available, including Fever Pitch.
So most of my Sunday afternoon was spent with a large cup of hot chocolate at Starbucks, deeply absorbed in the book. On yet another parethetical note, I wonder why I hadn't thought about this before; I've got a stack of books in my shelf still unread, and I blame the television in my room for that. As pretentious and, well, "yuppie" as it sounds, I quite enjoyed my afternoon at Starbucks with a book. I should do it more often.
But back to the book. I've read quite a few sports books, but this has to be the best, if only for its candor and its passion. Hornby *gets* it. For a guy who plans his weekends around Purefoods basketball games and who got into a number of fights with an ex-girlfriend over browsing ESPN.com too much, well, the book's impossible not to like.
I'm only halfway through the book, so I figured I'll try not to write too much about it yet until I finish it. But there's a passage I particularly like early in the book, where Hornby discusses male stereotypes, and how, in his experience, females have a harder time wrapping their heads around the fact that these stereotypes are quite untrue.
He cites one time when a female colleague of his couldn't believe the fact that he was into football, simply because they once had a discussion about a feminist novel they both liked. In fact, society in general tend to overgeneralize masculinity.
You like football? Then you also like soul music, beer, thumping people, grabbing ladies' breast, and money. You're a rugby and cricket man? You like Dire Straits and Mozart, wine, pinching ladies' bottoms, and money.
It's easy to forget that we can pick and choose. Theoretically, it is possible to like football, soul music, and beer, for example, and abhor breast-grabbing and bottom-pinching (or, one has to concede, vice-versa).
He goes on to point out that we can pick and choose, and that men are generally less aware of this fact than women are. It's a very good point. I like basketball, but I don't like Hollywood action films. I like reading Conrado de Quiros, and I like Joey Marquez movies. I listen to The Killers and Kylie Minogue. I mix and match.
Anyway, I came in to work earlier, verses of Hornby in my head, and was pleasantly surprised to find tha the Guardian books section published a feature on Hornby this weekend
, as well as an extract from his latest novel
, a novel about four suicidal depressives written in a jolly tone.
I like it already.