Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Internet Dating

Juliet, Naked

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 interjected: “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 the “here and now” of 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 book as well. While it isn’t as funny it is somewhat deeper.

By Professor Batty


Blogger Mary said...

I loved "Juliet, Naked" and thought it was very, very funny - possibly because I work at a radio station where a lot of the DJs are fans obsessed with obscure musicians.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

Obviously, I am not one to disparage obsessions with obscure musicians! I liked High Fidelity better because of the "lists". One-artist obsessions strike me as kind of sad, Duncan was a pathetic creature.

Anonymous Niranjana said...

The problem with such writing is that the internet component will date the book horribly. Two years from now, we'll be chuckling that the protagonists use Facebook. I mean, all the cool people will be on Diaspora, right?

Blogger Professor Batty said...

Niranjana ~ As a period piece, this might actually be pretty good, although I wonder if future generations will be much interested in shallow obsessions about faded 80's rock stars.

Blogger Darien Fisher-Duke said...

I love dysfunctional English obsessives! And I love meeting up with old blog pals! I think Hornby can be terribly funny. But when I think about it, it's pretty sad that in most of his books, the only wise character is a very, very young person.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

Rose ~ Hornby can definitely write, he's one of the best at making a story flow organically, and with humor. The Duncan character was so narrow as to skew the rest of the story- everyone else opened up, while even in the end Duncan was still stuck.

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