But I digress. It's not that Hornby's efforts since High Fidelity have been bad, exactly (though some of them have been -- Slam, for example). It's more that most of them have been just okay.
About a Boy was okay. How to be Good was okay-ish. The Polysyllabic Spree was actually very good, but too niche-market to make an impact and too academic and literary to be something I'd widely recommend. It's not accessible.
And then came Juliet, Naked. It arrived back in 2009, and frankly, I've been afraid to begin. What can I say? I was nervous. If the book sucked, I thought I might have to abandon Hornby entirely.
Luckily, it did not suck.
Is Juliet, Naked a great book? No. No way. It's more than just okay, but it's not as good as High Fidelity. Not by a long shot. The problem isn't the writing. Hornby is a lovely writer and is in fine form here. And it's not the story, which is (generally) realistic, relatable and somewhat affecting. It's that (and I hate to say this)...people in their 40s just aren't as interesting or likeable as people in their 20s. Not when they have the exact same issues.
High Fidelity and Juliet, Naked have a lot in common. Perhaps too much. And there's something depressing about that, don't you think? The funny pop culture padding, the emotional turmoil, the bad decisions, the sad relationships... in High Fidelity, this stuff felt good. It made sense. You can't fault young people for trying to understand the world and stumbling along the way. They're learning.
That book was hopeful. This one isn't.
While I found Juliet, Naked relatively enjoyable to read, it was also a bit depressing. I was left thinking that nothing had changed. That nothing would change. Ever. We'll all just go on and on and on, and we'll never get any smarter. And more often than not, the journey will be boring most of the time.
Is that realistic? Sure. But it's not exactly uplifting.