Friday, April 18, 2008

Nick Hornby's Songbook

Hornby, Nick. Songbook. San Francisco: McSweeney's, 2002.

Nick Hornby turns 51 this month. He is the author of some of my all-time favorite books: About a Boy, High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, and Speaking with the Angel. He also wrote a few books that I didn't like: A Long Way Down, Slam, and How to be Good.

I just finished reading Songbook which is a collection of Hornby’s essays about music. I plan to add it to my list of all-time favorites. The book (hard cover edition) itself is a work of art. The binding is sewn, not glued, and the cover art by Marcel Dzama is suitable for framing. Songbook would make a great birthday present for anyone who loves music as much as you do. It even comes with a music CD!

Luckily, the inside of Songbook is every bit as beautiful as the outside. The author reveals more of himself in these essays than he does in any of his fictional works. For example, in the essay about Ben Folds Five, Hornby shares a bit about his own personal heartbreak:
"'Smoke' is, I think, lyrically perfect, clever and sad and neat . . . it's also one of the very few songs that is thoughtful about the process of love, rather than the object or the subject. And it was a constant companion during the end (the long, drawn-out end) of my marriage, and it made sense then, and it still makes sense now. You can't ask much more of a song than that."
Hornby also discusses his family's struggle with autism, and ends the book with information about the charities, TreeHouse Trust and 826 Valencia.