23 May 2009

200 word review: '31 Songs' by Nick Hornby

I had high hopes for this book. I’ve wanted to read it for a while, so was excited when I got it as a gift. I thought that, as someone who loves music, I’d find a book about songs interesting. Unfortunately, I feel a bit let down.

The problem is, while Hornby is a great fiction writer, his writing style in this book is a bit … well … pompous. He seems to sneer at other people’s tastes whilst regularly protesting that he doesn’t really know that much about music. A bit of a contradiction, methinks. In fact, the whole book is based on a contradiction. Hornby says very early on that people who like songs because they remind them of certain events don’t really like music. So how come so many of the short essays in the book talk about how songs link into certain periods in his life? Pot, kettle and black spring to mind.

There are some highlights. The two essays in which he talks about his relationship with his autistic son are honest and moving. Unfortunately, these were the only diamonds I could find in the rock. The rest I found a bit supercilious and smug.

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