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What did everyone think of How To Be Good? I'm not a massive Hornby fan (About A Boy and High Fidelity were sort of ok), but I bought an audio version of this from a small book shop when I was desperate for something to keep me awake on a long car journey. It's the first book I've ever read (or listened to, as was the case here) where the motivation for getting to the end was sheer disbelief that such a huge-selling, populist title could be so souless and empty. I'm not proud of this, but the ending - the last sentence, in particular - was so utterly appalling that I ended up throwing the tape out onto the hard shoulder of the M11... :eek:

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I'm a fan of Nick Hornby but I have to say that I too struggled with this one, the problem being that I didn't care about the lead character at all. I forget the last line so I am going to look it up when I get home :D

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I've really enjoyed the other Nick Hornby books I've read. I've reread them a number of times, as comfort, familiar, always makes you smile type reading. Fever Pitch was the best - and up till then, I had no interest in football at all. It fascinated me to understand something about what football can mean in the life of someone who's so obsessed with it.

 

But yeah, How to be Good just didn't make any impression on me at all. I've got no real desire to reread it. It was ok, I guess - but nothing about it was memorable or intriguing at all really :( .

 

Like Tess - I'm now intrigued about what was so annoying about the last line, though. And also going to look it up, soon - unless Tess gets there first, and reveals what it is to the rest of us!

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I forget exactly what the line was now (I could always go back and find the tape but I would probably get run over in the process). Something about there being nothing out there but blackness/emptiness. It wasn't so much the line itself as how it just underlined what I'd suspected, which was that the book had been leading nowhere. It all just had a dead inside feel to it, the female narrator didn't seem likeable or authentic (I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to think she was annoyingly moany or not), and it was all so horribly wrapped up in its Guardian-reading, sandal-wearing world.

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P.S. And I say this as someone whose first book was called "The Fever Putt of golf" by a broadsheet newspaper... (I was quite chuffed to be compared to Hornby when it came to non-fiction, because Fever Pitch was obviously a really strongly felt book, but as for his fiction, I think a lot of writers find the term "Hornbyesque" a bit of a ball and chain these days).

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P.S. And I say this as someone whose first book was called "The Fever Putt of golf" by a broadsheet newspaper

 

Is your book called Nice Jumper? I read this last year and would say that it fits the above description...

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Is your book called Nice Jumper? I read this last year and would say that it fits the above description...

 

Are you saying that in a good way or a bad way, Tess?

 

As for How To Be Good, I thought it was a thoroughly indifferent novel, and a huge disappointment after the excellent High Fidelity and the enjoyable About A Boy. To be honest, I can't remember a thing about it, except that it was narrated by a woman.

 

And as for Fever Pitch, as I have stated elsewhere, I can't forgive Nick Hornby for not being a Reading supporter.

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Whoops, it was said in a good way! I love Fever Pitch so a comparison to it is a very good thing. As for Nice Jumper, I really enjoyed it and I have recommended it to my Dad who is a keen golfer. :D

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Thanks Tess. Glad you enjoyed it. I can never work out if golfers or non-golfers like it the most (the Handicap Chairman at my local Golf Club called it "disgusting" and claimed that it "shouldn't have been allowed"!). I'm just writing my third book at the moment (fiction, and not about golf)...

 

Sorry - should this be in author's corner?

 

BTW, did you enjoy Adventures In The Screen Trade? I loved it, but can't quite convince myself that I need to read the sequel, too.

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Adventures in the Screen Trade has a sequal???? I've also just read it, (the same copy, in fact :D ) - and am off to start it a thread all of it's very own, in the film section.....

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I loved the book, it was the first that I had read on Hollywood and although written in 1982 it still held true today. I would be interested in reading the sequel if only for the insights into some recent films (the original was written before I was born!)

 

As for the golf/non-golf question, I like to watch golf and have always done so with my Dad since I was very little, but I don't play so I guess I am in-between :D

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As regional investigator of traffic incidents in the Eastern Region I am currently pursuing inquiries into a multiple collision on the M11 following a juggernaut swerving to avoid a carelessly discarded audio cassette. Is anyone in this forum able to assist?

 

Nah. But it would be a great coincidence, wouldn't it? If the juggernaut had only been carrying fresh supplies of Hornby to Amazon you could turn it into a very bad novel.

 

I've been putting off Mr Hornby. I tend to steer clear of 'chick-lit' and to balance up the celestial equation have kept a wide berth round bloke books too. Probably unfair of me. Can anyone give me some really good reasons to read any Nick Hornby or should I just clog up some more arterial routes instead? ;)

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I've just re-read this. It's been sitting on my shelf for ages trying to persuade me that it wasn't really as I remembered it being, and I should give it another chance, and eventually, I relented, and hoped that I would be pleasantly surprised.....

 

Well, guess what, it was just as bad as last time :rolleyes: It felt like a potentially interesting premise, about what it might mean to be really good and self-giving, rather than just respectable - but Hornby completely failed to do anything interesting with it. And yes, the last sentence absolutely summed up his failure to resolve anything. Grrrrrrr.

 

It's off to the charity shop with it, in case I get taken in by it again, and read it a third time.

 

By coincidence, given the tangent about Adventures in the Screen Trade....I'm just reading the sequel to it at the moment. I wonder how much of that thread has survived the meltdown?

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Guest John Self

I disagree with most of the dismissals of this book, and I say that as someone who, prior to reading How to be Good, regarded Hornby as a ladlit chancer of no importance. OK, so in the grand literary scheme of things he probably isn't of much importance, but I thought How to be Good was interesting and had a great unfussy style which flowed well and was probably a lot harder to write than it looked.

 

I was also impressed by the relative bleakness of such a 'populist' book (of course it's the media and folk like us who attribute populism to Hornby, so it's not his fault) - I mean it's not Richard Yates, but the last line I actually thought brave in that he was not tying it up in an we-all-lived-happily-ever-after way.

 

Admittedly I haven't been driven to read any more of his stuff, but How to be Good is well worth a look in my opinion.

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I have got this one on my tbr - along with A Long Way Down and The Complete Polysyllabic Spree. I loved High Fidelity, but haven't read any other of his books yet.

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A couple—her a doctor and self-proclaimed good person, him a struggling writer and self-proclaimed angry person—who has been married for around twenty years start to experience the breakdown of their marriage due to the general problems of life and lovers. Enter DJ GoodNews to make it all better... or is that worse?

 

It's impossible for me not to make comparisons to High Fidelity, so here it is: How to be Good is not as funny. There, I've said it. It's not as funny. And you know what? That doesn't matter one bit. What Hornby, on the surface, lacks in humor is made up, and then some, with shear poignancy and relevance. Don't get me wrong, the humor is still there, it's just not laugh-out-loud-funny. However, what he does do is take a look at marriage—in this case, a twenty-year marriage in the throes of dissolution, one that would take a miracle to save. In an interesting move, Hornby blends it with a look at charity, and we get to see the similarities between the two. It's a look at excess and deficiency, as well as finding that all important balance that makes life work.

 

If I had one complaint, it was the use of humor in the initial pages—or, perhaps it was the darker themes of divorce in a humorous novel. However, I advise the reader to wade on in past that part, as the rewards are well worth it. It's a good book for every married person to read.

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I remember when this came out I won a signed 1st edition of this and all of nick hornby's other books plus a "I am good t-shirt" in an amazon competition. The books have long since been sold on ebay, I liked high fidelity quite a lot and even Fever Pitch (despite hating football). The best way to describe how to be good is "ok". There is nothing dreadfully offensive about it but it is the sort of book that is forgotten before you are even finished the last chapter.

 

http://myworld.ebay.co.uk/mcsloyc

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I just finished reading this book the day before yesterday, and was a bit disappointed. It seems I really need to read High Fidelity, and Fever Pitch, as the only other Hornby I've read is About A Boy and Slam (his first book for teenagers). My impressions of him have been mixed, I wasn't so keen on Slam, but blamed that on it being written for teenagers. So I wasn't expecting too much from this book. And I'm glad I wasn't. I can't quite really sum up for this book, I can see what he was doing, looking into the bleakness of an unhappy marriage, but I think the thing that narked me most was that it sort of seemed to drift into an ending. I was expecting it to resolve a bit more, GoodNews seemed to just go out of the picture in what felt like a page, and there was no feeling that this made any difference to anyone. And I agree about the last line, I was so looking forward to something that made me feel it was worthwhile reading it, but it was a bit bad. I agree that I couldn't really make myself like Katie (maybe that's what he was aiming for?), and I wish there'd been a bit more about her brother towards the end. I guess it sort of felt like a first draft, I felt things could have been developed a bit more, and the issues he deals with worked out a bit better. All in all, if this was the first book of his I'd read, it wouldn't make me want to read more.

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I've just finished this. I found it on a charity stall for 50p so thought I would give it a go. I finished it about a week ago and already can't quite remember what happened. It was enjoyable-ish at the time but simultaneously frustrating and not very credible. It sounded like it might be an interesting subject to write a novel about from the cover but didn't really live up to expectation sadly. It felt a bit linear and flat, not much depth or richness to either the characters or the plot. I *might* read it again one day but I'm glad I only spent 50p on it!

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It seems to me that High Fidelity was a very necessary book that spoke to a particular demographic's needs and concerns in a way that no literature had before or has since. It has discouraged, and this is a good thing, lesser writers like me from writing their own self-indulgent novels about the problem of living a life obsessed with pop music. That said, I picked up About A Boy and didn't find I had much use for it. I am saddened but not surprised that in his latest he has according to you all succumbed to ranting about the meaningless of life. I will steer clear of it.

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I read this book way back in early 2002, so can't write much about it. But actually, I remember really enjoying it as light pulp entertainment. I thought Hornby managed to get into the head of a female protagonist pretty well - so many men make a real hash of it - and the book made me laugh.

 

I would say it's probably my favourite of Hornby's books, closely followed by High Fidelity. I've read all his novels and the others struck me as quite lightweight. Still, as lightweight goes, I have to say I find him infinitely superior to the smug Tony Parsons whose single repeated plotline - man meets woman, man marries woman, man unfaithful woman leaves - isn't even narrated with much skill or wit.

 

Nick Hornby doesn't pretend to be anything more than light airport reading so I have nothing against him. At least unlike some bestselling pulp fictionistas, he doesn't pepper his prose with cliches or drape it with heavy garnishes of pomp and ceremony. I get the impression his tongue is firmly in his cheek, whereas Tony Parson's and Dan Brown's are up their own backsides.

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Mildly amusing in places, but can't help feeling this book to be very much directed at the middle-class, self-analysing, hand-wringing, navel-gazing brigade.

 

Won't stay long in the memory and will probably put me off trying another Nick Hornby if this one is anything to go by.

Edited by Ragamuffin Gunner

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