Hornby, Nick. Juliet, Naked. Riverhead, 2009. ISBN 978-1594488870 416 pp. $25.95
Annie’s significant other of fifteen years is obsessed with reclusive musician Tucker Crowe, who mysteriously cut his illustrious career short twenty-two years ago after a visit to a restroom in a Minnesota bar. Duncan maintains a fan website dedicated to Crowe and drags Annie on a tour of the States to see pivotal locations related to his idol, who is something like Dylan or Waits, and most notable for his concept album developed around a love affair gone wrong.
Upon the couple’s return from the US, Annie discovers a rough, unplugged version of Crowe’s album, Juliet, has been sent to Duncan in the mail. Her act of listening to it first is practically one of adultery. She thinks it’s trash, he thinks it’s genius. When their conflicting reviews are posted to Duncan’s fansite, it’s her remarks that garner a response from Tucker Crowe himself. She keeps their correspondence a secret, and it becomes something of a salvation as her stagnant relationship falls apart, and she tries to figure out how to compensate for fifteen wasted years. There is wonderful irony here, both in the persona Crowe’s fans create for him, and his real life and in the love affair Annie begins with a man who is practically her boyfriend’s mistress.
The story is engaging, but firmly entrenched in middle age and its issues, and thus of primary interest to the 35 & up set. The additions of ephemera like email, Wikipedia entries and bulletin board style postings add a certain charm, and Hornby, whose novels are often their musically allusive, if not music centric, is adept at writing about songs, composition and the rock & roll lifestyle in a way that makes me want to hear Tucker Crowe’s work.