Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The presence of his absence

Nick Hornby's JULIET, NAKED (2009) really is the best rock novel I've read since Lewis Shiner's GLIMPSES. It's funny & moving & deep, very smoothly written, & w/ lotsa good insights about relationships & what makes art & how men & women respond 2 music diffrently, & there's a happy Nding 4 almost every1. It's WAY better than Hornby's earlier still-pretty-good HIGH FIDELITY (really didn't like the Nding of that 1).
It also casts some rather disturbing lite on folks who write album reviews & post comments on the Internet. I saw myself in some parts of this book & didn't like the picture 2 much. U might C yrself 2 -- but read the book. It's pretty great.
Over in a sleepy coastal England town, a guy named Duncan is perhaps the world's 4most authority on an early-'80s American rocker named Tucker Crowe, an apparent musical genius who went silent shortly after recording his best album, an anguished cycle of lovesongs Ntitled JULIET.
Duncan & his wife Annie get an advance copy of a "new" Tucker Crowe CD, a collection of acoustic demos from his last album, called JULIET, NAKED. Bcos Duncan ignores the unintresting mail, Annie opens the package & gets 2 hear JULIET, NAKED 1st -- which causes a rift in their relationship.
Then Duncan hears it -- & his worship 4 Crowe boils over. He thinks the demos-CD is the 2nd Coming. He posts a rave review of the new album at a Crowe-fans website on the Internet ("where no one is forgotten anymore").
But Annie doesn't agree -- she thinks the demo package is a stark, sketchy, artless dry-run 4 the "real" album, & shows the original album 4 the masterwork it is.
Annie writes & posts her own dissenting review at the Crowe-fans' website.
...& Tucker Crowe responds.
This all happens in the 1st 50 pgs of the 400-pg book. We get 2 meet Tucker Crowe, & discover that after bailing on his music career (after a supposed "epiphany" in a Minneapolis bar-toilet), he went on 2 B an amateur human Bing, a drunken & useless husband & an especially bad father. Tho there's some hope he & his youngest son might B able 2 bring the Xtended family back 2gether....
Crowe & Annie Bgin 2 correspond. Annie & Duncan break-up. Annie & Crowe eventually meet. Crowe goes outta his way 2 avoid the train-wreck of Responsibilities that is his Ntire Xtended family. & everybody grabs 4 whatever happiness they can, even tho there R No Guarantees.
I read this book in practically 1 sitting, in less than 24 hrs, interrupted only by sleep, during my last 2 sick-days-off from work. It is immediate, fluent, funny & insightful, Hornby's characters R funny & Ngaging, & at no point did it feel kinda artificial, like I thot parts of HIGH FIDELITY did. Hornby has done nothing but get better. Don't wait 4 a movie (which this Cms almost perfect 4) -- if U're a music fan & U've ever wondered how music & listening & love & relationships all fit 2gether, & sometimes IF they do, U need 2 read this book.
Just 1 complaint, & it's not about the story. This book is 404 pgs long. It didn't need 2 B. The STORY isn't that long. The text is in big type w/ wide side-margins, a rather narrow column of type, 25 lines running right down the center of each pg. If they'd shrunk the type or narrowed the margins a touch they coulda cut the size of the book down 2 300 pgs. If they'd run 30 lines of type onna pg they coulda cut it down 2 just over 200 pgs, which is the size it probly shoulda bn. But then Riverhead/Penguin Books wouldn't have bn able 2 justify asking $25.95 4 a copy of a hardback book that thin.
(I also think summa the proofreading ain't the best: There's a few spots late in the book where it Bcomes unclear who's speaking -- & in fact the speaker hasn't changed, the proofreader just didn't catch the booboo.)
So. Find a cheap copy of the book. Buy it used, buy it 2nd-hand. Wait 4 the cheaper (probly thinner) paperback. But get it.

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