Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Books I Should Have Read by Now: How to Be Good by Nick Hornby

"It seems to me now that the plain state of being human is dramatic enough for anyone; you don't need to be a heroin addict or a performance poet to experience extremity. You just have to love someone."

Oh, Nick Hornby, how the mighty have fallen. There was a time when you were my favorite author and even though I still consider High-Fidelity and About a Boy contemporary masterpieces, everything else I have read by you drastically pales in comparison: How to Be Good follows this inauspicious trend. Similar to my grievances with A Long Way Down, this novel attempts to deal with serious subject matter (in this case, morality and spiritual reverence) but is encumbered by its own unsettled ideologies. Thus, the attempt to provide a thought-provoking religious parable loses all relevance and is rendered moot. What should have been a profoundly insightful and emotionally resonant story about trying to live a meaningful and moral life becomes innocuous and utterly forgettable. Despite the novel's many shortcomings, Hornby's enticing writing style does make it an easy read and for the first time in his career as an author, he is capable of effectively depicting a convincing female first person narrator. Katie Carr is no Rob Gordon or Will Freeman but she is intriguing enough to prove that Hornby is not strictly bound to writing from the male point of view. 

I have always admired Hornby's trenchant witticism and sardonic humor; the empathetic portrayal of genuine human relationships in all of their contradictions and complexities; his introspective and pithy observations of human experience along with an authentic portrait of the 20th and 21st century zeitgeist. How to be Good does possess many of these trademark qualities but is not nearly compelling as expected from an author with such talent. 

As the first book in my participation with Gabriel's challenge, it is with great chagrin that this novel will not be making the shelf and shall be donated. I am under the impression that Hornby set the bar exceedingly high for himself with High-Fidelity and About a Boy that he will be unable to write anything else that can possibly reach the caliber of these two brilliant novels. Oh well, at least we will always have them to remember him by.

Read from June 01 to 06, 2011  


  1. Hopefully the rest of the books on your list won't disappoint.

    I've never read any of his novels, but I've heard good things about him. Maybe I'll check out the ones that you really liked.

  2. I have a good feeling that the next book that I read from my list will be an improvement on this one.

    Oh man, you definitely need to find time for High Fidelity and About a Boy, which were also surprisingly made into two great films as well. I usually can't stand Hugh Grant but he is actually perfectly cast and gives the best performance of his career in the latter adaptation.