Review: Juliet, Naked

Juliet, NakedJuliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes I get disillusioned with the world and it starts to feel like the only way I’ll find that spark of beauty is with fantasy, by somehow altering reality, because I just can’t handle the mediocrity of it all.

When I feel like that, I ought to read something by Nick Hornby. He’s a master at looking at the same drab, dreary everyday world and turning up a gem.

Juliet, Naked chronicles what it means to be a fan of a piece of art–music, in particular–and how our perceptions of art can vary from person to person (even from creator to devotee) and what that can mean.

The story focuses on the work of imaginary temporarily famous ’80s rocker Tucker Crowe, who produced at least one album that seized the world with its intensity and then mysteriously stopped performing. The sudden absence of the artist–and the more than two decades with no news at all–leaves super-fans like the British low-tier professor Duncan grasping at rumors and imagination.

Duncan is the literal leader of an online Tucker Crowe fanclub, endlessly obsessed with and analyzing the old albums. His long-time girlfriend, Annie, just accepts that as part of her life–drab, dreary, not worth mentioning.

Until a “raw” version of Tucker Crowe’s hit album is released, sending Duncan into a premature delirium of excitement and Annie into her first real venture into Duncan’s online fandom. The album–and the feelings and thoughts and contemplation it triggers–sets off an unexpected chain of events and totally changes the world for Duncan, Annie, and even Tucker Crowe.

It’s a really great modern book. And when I say modern, I mean it: it’s still strange and wonderful when a book mentions everyday things like cell phones and, heck, the internet! And Hornby did a great job capturing the intensity of a super-fan and balancing that with the reactions of “everyday” fans. It made me think about my appreciation of music and art in general, and what it means to be a creator.

Juliet, Naked is both a thoughtful contemplation of the way music appreciation affects us as well as a deliciously jolly and realistic look at what makes life worth living.

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