The rabid fan is a recurring character in Nick Hornby’s writing. In Fever Pitch, he wrote about his own British football fandom. High Fidelity‘s main character derives his entire code of behavior (as well as a guide for judging the worth of others) from his collection of vintage vinyl; taste morphs into a moral issue. In his new novel, Juliet, Naked, Hornby takes one of his stunted fans into middle age, and lets us see the fallout of this kind of skewed view of things. Duncan, in his 40s, is obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a singer/songwriter who went into seclusion a couple of decades back. Duncan gets his hands on the release of an unplugged version of Crowe’s last and most brilliant album. In his excitement over scooping the online community of Tucker Crowe fans, Duncan posts a way-over-the-top rave review of the acoustic version, claiming it outshines the earlier studio version of the songs. Naturally, there’s a backlash, some of it very close to home: Duncan’s girlfriend Annie, who shares his enthusiasm for Tucker Crowe, at least to a point, isn’t impressed with the acoustic version. Annie writes a negative review of the album, which sets off a correspondence with Tucker Crowe, and throws Duncan and Annie’s relationship into question. Here, Duncan reads her essay before posting it on the fan site:
Duncan read the essay twice, just to buy himself some time; the truth was that he knew he was in trouble after the first reading because it was both very well written and very wrong. Annie had made no factual errors that he could find (although someone on the boards would always point out some glaring and utterly inconsequential mistake, he found, when he wrote something), but her inability to recognize the brilliance of the album was indicative of a failure in taste that appalled him. How had she ever managed to read or see or listen to anything and come to the right conclusion about its merits? Was it all just luck? Or was it just the boring good taste of the Sunday newspaper supplements? So she liked The Sopranos — well, who didn’t? He’d had a chance this time to watch her have to come to her own conclusions, and she’d messed it up…
He read it through once more, just to make sure, and this time it depressed him: she was better than him in everything but judgment — the only thing that mattered in the end, but still. She wrote well, with fluency and humor, and she was persuasive, if you hadn’t actually heard the music, and she was likable. He tended to be strident and bullying and smart-alecky, even he could see that. This wasn’t what she was supposed to be good at. Where did that leave him?
Here’s a brief video of Hornby discussing the book, love, relationships, and the internet with The Independent: