There’s something about Nick Hornby that makes me want to keep reading his novels, even though there’s a high disappointment factor. After the initial joy of High Fidelity he’s never quite returned to that peak, with his stream of fiction becoming weaker with each release. Only last year’s Slam suggested that he may have returned to something of his former greatness.
Juliet, Naked again looks at male obsession, a subject very familiar to Hornby. The title refers to The Beatles stripped down version of their final release, Let it Be, Naked, where the fictional Tucker Crowe, a reclusive rock star, releases a similarly no nonsense version of his acclaimed Juliet. Crowe is in some ways an American version of Syd Barrett, abandoning his fame to live quietly and in obscurity. The age of the internet has brought the Crowe obsessives together, poring over his lyrics and the countless bootleg albums of his concerts.
The novel’s lead character Alice shares her life with one such Crowe obsessive, a man most content to scour online forums and blogs for information about his hero, going as far as visiting the toilet of the bar where Crowe was last spotted in public.
There’s a lot of humour here, and some wry observations, but sadly Hornby’s latest quickly loses all of its promise. The problem is the unengaging characters which develop little more than simple sketches, and the unrealistic premise which introduces Crowe as a potential love interest for Alice. Oddly, the backstory involving a forgotten English seaside resort was far more interesting than the dull and unconvincing Crowe, and a missed opportunity for developing into a far better book. I’m sorry, but this is one to avoid.