Interview: Nick Hornby


The 30-something’s generation who enjoys pop culture knows by heart the year their bible was published: 1995. That was when english writer Nick Hornby, 56, then 38, released “High Fidelity”, and revealed the “adultescents” who wanted to fall in love every time, have ambitions beyond a bureaucratic job and make fun of people who didn’t know the new Nirvana.

Amidst grunge’s last gasps and the rise of britpop, the author sold more than a million books and became an almost divine figure for men who didn’t listen to a Smiths’ CD without tearing up a bit.

18 years later, “High Fidelity” is being released in Brazil, with a new translation by Christian Schwartz, as well as the brit’s first work, “Fever Pitch: A Fan’s Life” (1992), about his obsessive relationship with soccer team Arsenal –”A Long Way Down” (2005), his fifth book, will be out next year as part of an auction made between publishers and won by Companhia das Letras, who took away this titles from Rocco.

Below is the interview given by Hornby by e-mail.

Did you like Arsenal’s new shirt, the one that’s based on a brazilian uniform?
Nick Hornby – The uniform is also the memory of happier days for Arsenal, because it was used during the great 2004 season. The team is growing desperate.

“Fever Pitch” turned 21 this year. Are you still that fanatic about soccer?
Well, yes… Sort of. I still go to all the matches in London and I have two kids who know more about the team than me when I was their age. So, I can’t forget about it. But it has become more difficult loving the sport. Money is so important for the success of a team that I’ve realised that there’s no longer room for romanticism.

Have you ever reread “High Fidelity”?
No, never. I’ve so many stuff to read, and I’ve always been a bit ashamed about my own work. Also, I’m 18 years older, so I don’t think that book will say something to me anymore. But I’m very happy that it means something to the people I wrote it to.

Where you surprised by the success of the book back then?
I think everyone is surprised the first time a book is successful. But I knew, when I was writing it, that it would have an impact, because I knew a lot of people who were like that and I knew those people hadn’t yet been represented in fiction.

You have mentioned before that some people ask you what’s real and what’s not in the book…
What bothers me is that people don’t tend to see that there was art in the book. They think I’ve worked at a record store, broke my relationship with my girlfriend and wrote everything just as I was getting an iPhone and taking pictures of something ahead of me. If fiction seems real is because the writer has worked really hard.

Have you received lots of requests to continue the story? It seems to be impossible these days when it’s so hard to find a record store.
I have an editor and she never suggested a sequel. Most of them are terrible. But you’re right, it’s impossible to picture Rob today. The only guy I’ve kept in touch and used to be a record store owner is now a real state agent. He makes more money, but I wouldn’t like to write about his job.

How do you listen to music nowadays? Do you own an iPod?
Yes, I have an iPod with a huge hard drive, but this year I’ve started buying vinyl again. MP3 destroys our relationship to music. I sit down in front of my computer for most of the week and, when I’m bored, I start downloading shows, tracks, iTunes stuff. I pay whenever I can, but most of them are free. I have hundreds of thousands of songs that I’ve never listened to or that I’ve listened to only once. Now, if I really enjoy something, I buy it in vinyl and pay attention to the record for 20 minutes.

Your books reflect many of your personal experiences. You were nominated for the adapted screenplay of “An Education” at the Oscars and you’ve been to many Hollywood parties. Is there any chance that we may read those experiences in one of your books?
I don’t think so. This experiences were interesting to me, but it’s hard to make them interesting for the rest of the world.

“A Long Way Down” is being adapted to film, but without Johnny Depp, who has always wanted to produce the movie. What happened?
I’ts the old story: nothing happened! The movie wasn’t produced, the rights were available again and someone different shot it. There are many books that are bought and the scripts aren’t written. That, or the script is written but nobody likes it. Or people do like it but don’t get the money. Or the actors, or the directors, or, or, or…

You’re adapting “Brooklyn”, by Colm Toibin. What do you like about working with someone else’s book?
I’m also writing the script for “Wild” for Reese Witherspoon’s production company. I like collaborations and technical challenges. I’ve been writing for 22 years and that is a long time sitting alone in the office. I’ve been looking to diversify my professional life, and movies represent that, because I can work with talented people outside my area.

Is writing for movies more exciting? It’s been four years since “Juliet, Naked”…
I’m in the middle of a book now. I wanted to try different things in the middle, because I’ve spent the few last years trying to organize it. I have four projects that aren’t dead or alive at the moment, but things could happen in the next few months.

A version of this story was originally published in Portuguese on Folha de S.Paulo.
Author: Rodrigo Salem