I'm in a rut, retyping the same sentence over and over again. Where is the editor? Yes, I know that Nick Hornby is a great writer, and I can't dispute that based on this book. This is a beautifully written, badly conceived book, IMO. I'm sure I'll get flamed for this, but I found it profoundly misogynistic, and therefore, angry when I finished it.
What do you do when you have a book where all the words are put together in such a marvelous way and yet it doesn't work for you (or me, I guess). The sum is much shittier than the parts!
I think there are two ways to view this book. Either it is unrelentingly cynical, where we are all doomed to be selfish and myopic for the rest of our born days, or it's one of the most sexist novels I've read in a long time. Neither view is particularly appealing.
The good. Well, the writing. Wonderful, witty, insightful, funny, and, I can't disagree, masterful. This novel is written in three distinct POVs--no mean feat. The depiction of fandom is so right on that I thought, hmmmm, what fandom does Nick Hornby belong to? Because I am heavily involved in fandom, and his descriptions definitely had an insider's feel to it. The sense of a worldwide community juxtaposed to the pettiness, the factions, and obsessive-compulsive nature of fans. Being in fandom, it didn't seem bizarre at ALL that someone would make a pilgrimage to a toilet. So yes, that worked for me completely.
The bad. The last third. We have this man (the musician) who is described as a layabout who lives off of women he impregnates. He has children scattered all over the globe that he doesn't seem to care about. Aside from one child (and why this one child is so much better than the others remains a complete mystery), they all irritate the shit out of him. Just because he admits he's an abysmal father doesn't mitigate the fact he is one. And we, the reader, are supposed to give him a pass because he ends up sacrificing his art because of a ten-minute fuck? Sorry. No. No. And can I say no. He does not get a pass. As much as the author would like us to like him (as the female protagonist clearly does), it doesn't wash. I acknowledge his charm for one second, and then I think about all these children he could care less about. And I think, you know, if you had this epiphany in the bathroom, why didn't you invest in condoms and STOP POPULATING THE WORLD WITH CHILDREN YOU ARE AT BEST INDIFFERENT ABOUT?
This is such a male fantasy. This guy is a jerk and yet all these women fall in love with him and bear his children. Not that I want this fantasy where's he's this amazing guy, so therefore, our female protagonist falls in love with him, because how Barbara Cartland of me. No, I want these women to stop falling in love with an asshole. I want them to grow a pair.
And now we get to the real crux of why this book is so sexist. Because the women are idiots. Because they don't use birth control. Because this man has a history of impregnating women and them dumping them. In fact, they have a little club together, Dumpees United, where they can commiserate over what a horrible father this man is. And yet our female protagonist thinks that it's a really good idea to have a relationship and a child with this man.
For the life of me, I don't know why she's so desperate for a child that she doesn't sleep with her old boyfriend. Because, frankly, it doesn't matter. She's leaving one selfish man for an equally selfish man.
I disliked everyone by the end of this book. For their choices, for their lack of choices, for their apathy, for their stupidity, for their shocking lack of self-respect. Not even the beautiful, beautiful writing could save this book for me.