No one understands the hold music has on us quite like author Nick Hornby. Being an audiophile himself Hornby appreciates how, at least for some, the records we buy and the bands we love can take on a greater significance beyond their immediate aural pleasures. Hornby knows how music can come to dominate our lives, and how we can come to define ourselves by the music we hold dear. Hornby’s most famous protagonist, Rob Fleming from High Fidelity, goes so far to say that you can’t be a serious person if you have less than 500 records. But High Fidelity isn’t just about music. It’s also about love, death and the perils of relationships. And so is Hornby’s latest, a self-described quasi-sequel to High Fidelity, Juliet, Naked.
At first blush, Juliet, Naked seems to be exclusively about music, too. The novel begins in hilarious fashion, as our British protagonists, longtime couple Duncan and Annie, make their way across the US on a musical pilgrimage. The impetus for this magical mystery tour is Tucker Crowe, fictional musician and notorious recluse, who hasn’t been heard from since 1986, when his famous break-up album, Juliet, was released. It’s said that the greatest pop and rock songs are almost always about love — wanting it, getting it, losing it, trying to get it back. And in a sense, that’s what most Nick Hornby books are about, too. But his books are also about the things in our lives that we use as substitutes for love, the things that we cling to in the absence of relationships in an effort to make sense of our world — namely, music, or art. But as Duncan discovers, and Rob Fleming before him, your records can only nourish you so much, or as the Motown song goes, ain’t nothing like the real thing.