I first got into Nick Hornby the same way I imagine a lot of people did; through his films. I watched High Fidelity and loved it so I read the book, and then read more of his books. Whilst it’s not hard to argue that he has somewhat lost his way in his later books (he can not write a book with a teenage main character; it always seems like an old person writing as a young person; which it is) there’s no denying that his early books are in a class of their own. He perfectly captures the insecurities and intricacies of the masculine psyche. It attacks masculine frailties with such finesse and skill that you feel like it’s about you personally. It’s like a really good song in that way, despite the fact it was written by someone you’ve never met, in a country you’ve never been to, in a town you couldn’t recognise on a map, when you hear it you feel like the lyrics are torn out of your own brain and put to a melody, it feels personal. It’s also incredibly funny, the humour very British (for obvious reasons).
Now a lot of people will be turned off by this book because they have no interest in football. My suggestion is this; even if you don’t like football it would be a good idea to read this book. You don’t need an expansive knowledge of football to understand and enjoy this book, it pretty much explains the important things for you. This book isn’t even really about football at all; it’s a tale of obsession and life, it’s almost like a philosophy book, albeit an introductory one, disguised as a biography. He discusses his life in relation to important football events, and vice versa, which is natural. When we discuss huge events of historical importance, it always feels more real if we discuss ourselves within the context. It’s why people always talk about where they were when things happened, how they found out, how they reacted etc. They personalise the impersonal to make sense and form an emotional connection. Your viewpoint on an event will be different depending on how you first heard about it and who you were at that point in your life; if you were a young child your view will be different than if you were an adult. My viewpoint on the death of Diana, for example, is probably shaped by who I was when it happened. I had just turned 11 years old and was starting to pay a lot more attention to the outside world, as well as starting to become the cynical asshole that I am today. As such when I think of that event I just feel the reaction to it was all a bit silly, a bit over the top. 9/11 happened when I was 15 whilst I was at school, so my main memory of that is fear. Whereas by the time 7/7 happened I had started to become more interested in statistical analysis and the application of probability, so despite the fact it happened a lot closer (and I was actually supposed to go to London that day as well), I wasn’t fearful. As such my mind views the event itself differently.
It works the other way round too. I distinctly remember the year my nan died Liverpool were set to win the Premier League. She was a Liverpool fan all her life so when it looked like they were going to win it felt good, it was like they were doing it in tribute to her. As such when they slipped up and lost it, it felt like a personal attack, like they had let her down somewhat. I was actually annoyed at them for doing that. I know logically I had no reason to, her death and their football were never linked in reality, but in terms of emotion and my life, they will be forever intertwined. And that’s the beauty of life.
So in summary; a fantastic book, and the film is one of the greatest sports films I’ve ever seen (Not quite as good as The Damned United though, but few films are). A story about how invested people can get in something they have no control over, just simply wonderful. But you still need to read High Fidelity as well.