By Nick Hornby
At a theater performance last spring I was introduced to some relatives of a blog-pal. "So how did you two get to know each other?" was a question I received from one of her in-laws. As I began to explain, another in-law chimed in "Internet Dating!" A moment of silence and embarrassed smiles all around. While we are hardly an "item" (except, perhaps, in Halldór Laxness literary criticism circles) it was a interesting point, not completely without validity. The use of the internet has probably been the biggest change in the courtship and mating dynamic (to say nothing of how men and women interact) since the introduction of the "pill" in the early sixties. A stay at a B&B a few years ago found the Weaver and me the only couple staying there not to have met via on-line dating! Many others have met people by having their blog read, sometimes with the most amusing/mortifiying face-to-face encounters.
All of this, and more, is covered in Nick Hornby's latest novel, Juliet, Naked. Reading it brings up the question: Will all new contemporary fiction (fiction set in the "present") have an internet component? This book is full of emails, blogs, cyber-stalking and Wikipedia entries. Nick does a good job integrating these elements into a story about triangle of three failed people: Tucker Crowe- a reclusive ex-rock star, Duncan- Crowes' stalker/blogger/interpreter, and Annie- quiet museum director and Duncan's "other".
Hornby has explored some of this turf before, notably in High Fidelity, I think that one's appreciation for a book like this would depend on how much interest one has in dysfunctional English obsessives. It is deftly written, even breezy at times, which helped keep my interest. The character of Jackson, Crowe's young son, gives us a sense of perspective - he's the only person in the book who isn't living his life one (or more) steps removed from "here and now" reality. He also supplies some of the parenting theme; he is Crowe's last chance at becoming a real father.
I sensed that Hornby was trying to express some of his mixed feelings toward the internet; how it can distort yet revitalize reality. He also covers aging musicians and how disappearing can be a savvy career move. One of Hornby's problems is that he doesn't offer much insight into the musical process- making his premise seem artificial. He did offer a bit of hope that internet communications could help a person break out of a rut, if only for a short while.
A marginal recommendation; if you enjoyed High Fidelity you might like this as well. It isn't as funny, but is somewhat deeper.