She wondered why someone would bother to write that; but then, “Why bother” was never a question you could ask about more or less anything on the Internet, otherwise the whole bunch of them shriveled to a cotton-candy nothing. Why had she bothered? Why does anybody? She was for bothering, on the whole; in which case thank you, MrMozza7, for your contribution, and thank you, everybody else, on every other website.
Annie and Duncan are a childless 40-something couple who spent the last 15-plus years together in an uneventful fishing town. They’ve been together not out of all-consuming desire and passion and love but out of comfort and familiarity. Duncan, obsessed about a certain has-been rocker, is responsible for anchoring the relationship in a muck. His is the kind of obsession that gets less cute as responsibilities grow and as the reality of age gets more palpable. He watches art films, reads books, listens to Pitchfork-favored type of music, and sees himself as such, as a cultured bloke. He is also single-mindedly obsessed about a Jeff Buckley-esque rocker who made exactly one album in his career but which is supposedly great, as considered so by music snobs.
His better half is Annie, all but deprived of her better years, having stuck with an obsessive. Tucker Crowe, the Jeff Buckley, is the obsessed over. His record label releases a Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk Disc 2-like recording called Juliet, Naked, a raw version of the great album, Juliet, which he has drooled over for years. Duncan, being a slobberer, writes a lengthy, praise-y review of the album on a fan site, causing an uproar within the site’s smallish populace. Incensed over this refreshed obsession, Annie writes a diss review of the album which is 80% objective and 20% spiteful. Her relationship, all 15 years of it, has revolved around a has-been’s music and she is not going to pander again to what she thinks is an inferior version of a classic. Tucker Crowe reads her review, e-mails her in appreciation, Duncan flips.
Nick Hornby onto annoying know-it-alls, music obsession, and music know-it-alls should be a guaranteed barrel of laughs, but this is unexpectedly kind of sad. The relationship is so hopelessly resigned to compromise: two people sticking together because of middle-ageness and for lack of will to do something else. Duncan is sad. He’ll save his Tucker Crowe bootlegs before even thinking of rescuing Annie should their house catch fire. As usual, Nick Hornby writes so excellently about music. He has very sharp ear for Internet dialogue, about how opinions get manufactured and traded in fan sites and blogs. He’s probably one of those celebrities who Google themselves to death, so he knows net noob behavior, from the worshipping to the commenting to the ALL CAPSing of probably a meek’s sole means of being heard. Juliet, Naked is a sly commentary on the Internet culture. I liked it a lot but the ending felt rushed.