Nick’s Knack

2008-08-01
1:40:27 am

Every now and then between reading trades, watching movies and re-watching Buffy I do read some books without pictures. A personal favorite author of mine is Brit Nick Hornby. I got introduced to Nick’s work after finding out that High Fidelity was based on a book. Soon I went to the bookstore and picked up my own copy of one of the few books I’ve actually read twice and read it for the first time. I was blown away by the way his narrative weaved in and out between the world of record collecting and intense relationship stuff that I didn’t really understand at the time.

I haven’t read About A Boy or How to Be Good, which are the two books after High Fidelity that everyone asks me about when I tell them I like Hornby. What can I say? I’m a slow reader and I had plenty of books to read throughout college. But, after getting a real job and moving to New York I started trolling Barnes and Noble and Borders for their bargain books. I now have a stack of about 20 books that I’m getting through slowly but surely. Two of those books have been by Hornby: A Long Way Down and Slam.

I picked both books up (in hardcover even) without even reading what they were about. His name (and the under $7 price tag sold me from the word go). I read A Long Way Down in a few days, which is pretty impressive for me. It’s a book about four very different people who all meet at a popular suicide spot on New Year’s Eve. What I like about Nick is that he gets to the part of the story that a lot of other authors would use as their endings and then pushes on from there. In this case, you’d think that the people meeting on the building to kill themselves would be the end, but it’s just the beginning as they become friends, form a strange little club and learn more about each other (as we do when each character takes a turn at narrating).

Tonight, I finished Slam which is about a 16 year old kid who talks to his Tony Hawk poster and gets the first girl he’s ever slept with pregnant. Again, Hornby really delves deep into the psyche of a kid who’s about to have a kid. And while it’s funny, it’s also incredibly scary and intimidating. I actually put Slam down for quite a while after starting it (I do that a lot). Sometimes its because I don’t really like the book and sometimes its because I’d rather watch TV or read trades. For some reason I thought that Slam was the latter, but I’m glad I picked it back up last week and finished it because I really, really dug it. Horny keeps the focus on Sam the whole time, telling the story from his perspective. It’s an imperfect perspective, of course, but that’s what makes it so charming. It wasn’t TOO long ago that I was 16 (though I didn’t have the problems Sam does), but I can distinctly remember feeling some of the same things he does and feeling the same way. It’s a great book for guys to read and enjoy, but I also really think it’s the rare book that you could hand to a woman and tell her “this is what it’s like to be a 16 year old boy.” Even if he is British.

I do wish his books came with a bit of a glossary though. I’m familiar with most of the British slang, but there’s always something that throws me. I had to look up the word “skint” (it means poor) and I wasn’t sure if British college is the same as ours. I think it is, but I’m not sure. I do think I’m going to start using “do my head in” when someone’s driving me crazy. Also, I kind of want to go to Hastings to see what it’s really like.

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