12 July 2010

Book 13 of 2010

This is the first book I finished using Apple's iBooks application, but that's not an option to choose over at Goodreads, the site I use to keep track of my reading.

Juliet, Naked: a novel

13) Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
As an aside, there are little distinctions between iBooks and the Kindle app that make reading on each one very unique. Kindle allows the user to reverse the screen from black writing on a white background to white writing on a black background, which I find easier to read at night in the dark. iBooks doesn't do this, but one can change the brightness level. It's a similar effect, but harder on the eyes than Kindle's method. However, iBooks has a built in dictionary, something the people at Amazon say will be included soon. iBooks also possesses more intuitive and far-reaching annotation tools than Kindle. While Kindle does let the reader highlight sections of text, iBooks gives the reader the option of also adding post-it style notes along with the highlighted portion. Finally, the landscape mode in iBooks showcases an aesthetically pleasing double-page spread, as if the user were looking at an open book, while Kindle merely stretches text over the length of the screen. Ultimately, the most important part of a book reading app is the number of books available, and right now, Kindle blows iBooks out of the water. However, given the choice between the two, I always like to pick the iBooks app because of the color on the screen and the annotating ability.


Nick Hornby is an author I've always enjoyed, even when some of the books themselves peter out disappointingly (How To Be Good and A Long Way Down, I'm looking at you). He has a way of writing about music and irresponsibility that's incredibly relatable. Juliet, Naked takes its title from a new release by a reclusive Nick Cave-type of musical artist named Tucker Crowe. At first, the book appears to be about the loser fanboy, Duncan, who worships Crowe, but the novel instead focuses on the fanboy's fed-up girlfriend, Annie, and her interactions with the former indie (...?) rock star. This was the correct move on Hornby's part because Duncan is insufferable and the more time spent with him, the worse the book would have been.

But since it's not about Duncan, the story is incredibly enjoyable and really feels like Hornby's most mature book, and not just because he's dealing with characters that are older than his usual fare. Sure, there were older characters in A Long Way Down, but since Hornby strictly focuses on Annie and Tucker here, they become fully realized beyond anyone else in his previous novels.

One of the coolest aspects of the book is how Hornby explores the relationship between an artist, his or her work, and the person that appreciates the art. Every year in one of my classes, I'll have a student complain that there is no way an author could have possibly meant for a symbol to have so much meaning or for a theme to really be intentional. It's always a struggle to tell them how little an author's intention matters. There is a distinct possibility that an author did not intend for an object in the book to be a symbol, but the work can be interpreted in such a way that the symbol is now there. Whether discussing a piece of writing or a piece of music, once it leaves the creator's hands and is out in the world, it no longer belongs to the originator. Art belongs to the world and some people are going to find meaning in it that was never intended to be there. Just because the artist never meant it to be there doesn't invalidate the interpretation; it merely opens up the conversation.

Hornby explores this theme in a really beautiful and elegant way towards the end of the novel, and I honestly wish he had spent more time on it because it feels a little underdeveloped. IRONY!


  1. Anonymous5:55 PM

    You can tell that he wrote the book by his name.