I love reading books by Nick Hornby. He has a perfectly blending of music, relationships, and witty dialogue. I’ve read many of his books, including High Fidelity and About a Boy. Both books were great, and the movies were excellent adaptations. After quitting Hornby’s young adult offering, Slam!, I decided to try again with Juliet, Naked.
Juliet, Naked is the story of Duncan, an obsessive fan of the fictitious singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe whose 80s record “Juliet” is respected as one of the top break-up albums of its time. After this masterpiece, Tucker Crowe disappeared into obscurity, leaving rabid fans like Duncan to assess, analyze, and pontificate on the whereabouts of Tucker Crowe. When a striped-down version of “Juliet” arrives in the mail, Duncan reaches euphoria and posts how this version he dubs “Juliet, Naked” is the pinnacle of Crowe’s genius. Other Crowe aficionados are impressed and envious at Duncan’s review.
One person who is not impressed is Annie, Duncan’s girlfriend. She posts a critical review of “Juliet, Naked” with Duncan’s condescending approval. Soon, Tucker Crowe himself contacts Annie to praise her review of this terrible record, and a relationship begins without Duncan’s knowledge. He is too busy organizing his bootleg CDs and speculating how many Tucker Crowes can dance on the head of a pin.
The novel examines the idea of celebrity and fandom; how do these two work together and how do they contradict each other? It discusses how Tucker Crowe is defined by those few middle-aged men with prodigious knowledge typing away on the Internet. Is it possible that Duncan knows more about Tucker Crowe than Tucker Crowe does? One of the most entertaining and poignant scenes is when Tucker and Duncan meet to discuss his music.
Hornby creates a real musician with a powerful record that does not exist. I found myself wishing I could listen to “Juliet,” especially the closing track, “You and Your Perfect Life.” I suppose we all have those “Juliet” albums in our lives, records that mean more to us than they mean to the artists who created the works. Perhaps there will be a small conclave of middle-age men analyzing Nick Hornby and the book Juliet, Naked twenty years from now, loving it more than Hornby himself does. What will Nick have to say to them then?