Nick Hornby On Dave Eggers, The Mission and Juliet, Naked
Nick Hornby isn't settling for mere literary fame. The bestselling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down has two projects arriving simultaneously: his new novel, Juliet, Naked, and the film An Education, for which he wrote the screenplay-- and that's not mentioning the album he has in the works (more on that in a second). He'll be taking the Bay Area by storm over the next few days, with readings, screenings, and a conversation with Dave Eggers at City Arts and Lectures.
An Education, which screens tonight, is the story of a young woman who's seduced by a charming con man-- whose charms also entice her parents. It's based on a true story by Lynn Barber, and it's Hornby's first screenplay since 1997's adaptation of his book Fever Pitch (itself remade into an American version). "It was kind of a gift, actually," Hornby says of adapting a work that was not his own. "[Barber's original essay] was short, like ten or twelve pages, and it gave me space as a novelist to invent stuff. It gave me a structure, but didn't limit me." While About a Boy and High Fidelity also found their way to film, Hornby chose not to write their screenplays, and has no plans to work on upcoming adaptations of his A Long Way Down and How to Be Good. "I don't think I'll adapt any more of my own work," he says. "It's boring."
On Wednesday, Hornby will read from Juliet, Naked, which deals with a midlife marital breakup and the budding friendship of the wife with the reclusive rock star whose music originally brought the couple together. The book has received positive notices in the UK, with The Guardian calling it "immensely readable." Music has been a major part of Hornby's life; besides the tune-centric High Fidelity, he's also toured with the band Marah and published Songbook, a collection of essays on favorite songs. His next project is a musical collaboration with Ben Folds, for which he'll write the lyrics and Folds the music. "They're short stories, really," he says of the new songs. Folds has already performed a song from the collaboration. Its subject? Levi Johnston, the ex-boyfriend and baby-daddy of Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol.
Dave Eggers will interview Hornby on Thursday night at a sold-out City Arts and Lectures event. With Eggers' recent foray into movies (Away We Go, Where the Wild Things Are), we asked Hornby if he'd shared any wisdom from his own time in the Hollywood trenches. "Dave's his own guy and I think his experiences were so different from mine, I really can't say. I don't think there's much you can learn from any given artistic project; they're all so different." While they might not share the filmmaking experience, Hornby and Eggers are both passionate about Thursday's event benefactor, 826 Valencia ("I think it's a fantastic organization, an amazing thing," Hornby says) and the Mission District. "I like the area around 826. One of the things that really impresses me about San Francisco is the number of independent shops you can browse in. That's really gone from London; there are so many chains."
Hornby also enjoys going to the movies: his favorite recent films include Moon ("one of the best films this year") and (500) Days of Summer ("the screenplay was really good.") He's in good company: with plenty of critical praise for An Education (including an award at this year's Sundance), Hornby may find himself with a film career that's the equal of his literary and musical efforts.
Hornby will give a free reading from Juliet, Naked, tonight, Wednesday, October 7th, at 7 pm, at the Barnes and Noble in El Cerrito (6050 El Cerrito Plaza). His City Arts and Lectures appearance with Dave Eggers on Thursday is sold out.