Tag Archives: music

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Ron’s #22: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

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?

 

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Ron’s #37: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

After watching the movie version of High Fidelity this weekend for the umpteenth time, I decided to reread the book. I “read” the book via audio book ten years ago or so, and I loved it as much then as I did today. High Fidelity is an excellent novel about music, relationships, disconnection, and hope. The New Yorker raves that “It is rare that a book so hilarious is also so sharp about sex and manliness, memory and music.”

Rob Fleming is a 35-year-old music aficionado/snob. He owns Championship Vinyl, and works with Barry and Dick, paler versions of Rob with an equally prodigious knowledge of decades worth of pop music. The story begins with Rob’s girlfriend, Laura, moving out and leaving him to his records and snarky criticism. Rob drifts and floats his way through the next few weeks as he tries to find connections to something or someone, while facing his own emptiness that pop tunes cannot fill.

Rob, Barry, and Dick are consummate list-makers, creating the Top Five Songs for a Monday Morning, Top Five Songs about Death, and Top Five Artists that Must Be Killed When the Music Revolution Happens (U2 is on that list). They have better taste in music than most anyone else, and they are not shy about that fact. Rob says that he came to the conclusion that it is more important what you like than it is what you are like.

I’m not a music collector, but there is something to relate to in my book collecting that makes me really connect to this story. I feel that I can relate to the passion Rob show towards what seems to be meaningless and trivial stuff (band lineups, cover versions, imported singles). I like their everyday obsessiveness about records and music, and after reading it, I want to download some of the songs mentioned. (Sidenote: If I had time, I would create an iMix on iTunes of all the songs mentioned in this book.]

This is the fourth or fifth book of Nick Hornby’s that I’ve read, and I love his style and swag in dialogue. His prose would be a perfect example to show students the important of voice in writing, if it weren’t for all the swearing.

The movie version of this book is excellent as well. John Cusack is one of my favorites, and he captures Rob perfectly. Much of it, I like better than the book, mainly because they moved the location from London to Chicago. Stories just sound better in the U. S. of A. I didn’t understand many of the references, places, or phrases in the book, even with digesting the BBC version of The Office and Extras.

Coincidence: One of the main songs of the book is Solomon Burke’s “Got to Get You Off My Mind,” and Burke just died yesterday. I hope that it had nothing to do with my reading this book, although this wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.

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Ron’s #10: Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

My friend John recommended this book to me and I ordered it immediately. John is one of those guys who is smarter than most people, and he has an outstanding knowledge of literature, pop culture, and sports. I enjoy discussing opinions on 2 out of 3 of those topics, but I still don’t know what a running back does that differs him from a linebacker. After finishing this book, I understand why John enjoyed it—Klosterman is a doppelganger for John, an expert on all three of these areas.

Eating the Dinosaur is a collection of 13 essays about modern life discussed in terms of popular culture. Klosterman is the uber-hipster with a writing style that is sharp, funny, and biting. Here are some of my favorites:

  • “Oh, the Guilt” connects Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain’s and David Koresh’s messiah complexes.
  • “Tomorrow Rarely Knows” is one of the best discussions on time travel that I’ve read.
  • “ABBA 1, World 0” about the phenomenon of ABBA Music
  • “ ‘Ha ha,’ he said. ‘Ha ha.’ ” discusses what the laugh track on sitcoms says about its viewers and our culture.
  • “FAIL” gives insight into the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski that I never before considered.

The power of this book is not reading about topics that I enjoy (advertising, Lost, time travel), but also about those subjects in which I usually steer clear from in choosing my literary selections. He has two essays that are sports related, one about Ralph Sampson and one about football. It was the longest piece dedicated to football plays that I’ve ever read..and I enjoyed it. The next time I talk to John, I’m going to discuss the feasibility of the 4-3 and Wildcat plays, and how the forward pass changed the face of football for good.

In the Ted Kaczynski piece, Klosterman offers this conclusion of the effects of technology that coincide with the Unabomber’s views:

Technology is bad for civilization. We are living in a manner that is unnatural. We are latently enslaved by our own ingenuity, and we have unknowingly constructed a simulated world. The benefits of technology are easy to point out (medicine, transportation, the ability to send and receive text messages during Michael Jackson’s televised funeral), but they do not compensate for the overall loss of humanity that is its inevitable consequence. As a species, we have never been less human than we are right now. And that (evidently) is what I want.

This is a clever collection of essays that will be worth your time to read.

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