Q&A With "About A Boy" Author Nick Hornby

By

British author Nick Hornby’s obsessions with music and sports have been well reflected in About a Boy, High Fidelity, and a slew of other writings, but recently, the auteur has delved into different themes: He wrote the screenplay for Wild, the film starring Reese Witherspoon based on Cheryl Strayed’s bestseller; and his new novel, Funny Girl, centers on a woman who unexpectedly achieves fame in 1960s London when she becomes the star of a wildly popular BBC comedy series. 

On February 11, Hornby stops into San Francisco for an evening at City Arts and Lectures with local novelist Vendela Vida


Arguably, American public television probably wouldn’t exist were it not for programming imported from Britain, including such ’70s-era comedies as Are You Being Served? and Benny Hill. Discuss.

Nick Hornby: I can’t really explain it, but I fear there is a level of irony in the worship of those shows. I think Americans loved Benny Hill because they couldn’t believe how vulgar it was. As for Are You Being Served?, it’s the kind of show my mum likes.

What inspired you to begin your new book, Funny Girl, in ’60s London?

NH: In Funny Girl, the swinging ’60s of popular imagination is actually passing the characters by. They come from another tradition altogether, that of a post-war England where there were a lot of really smart people who suddenly, thanks to the fact that everybody had a TV set, had other options to create and succeed. I wanted to write about that.

You’ve spent some quality time in SF over the years. What keeps bringing you back?

NH: I feel very connected to the city because of working with the literary mag The Believer, and because of my friendship with Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. I love the whole 826 project and, in fact, started my own version in London. SF has also made me fond of burritos.

SF is the setting for the new TV adaptation of About A Boy. Have you seen it?

NH: I’ve seen it. It’s probably not my favorite thing to come from my work. I didn’t know about it until two weeks before it came out, because once you sell the rights, your connection is done. The only thing left of the book seems to be the names of the characters. What’s really weird is that my kids love it. We watch it together, and I sometimes mutter under my breath.

Your Facebook updates reveal a guy who seems to take some pleasure from the process of social networking. True?

I really enjoy Facebook. I loathe and fear Twitter. There is a gang of people I only know through Facebook and I really enjoy the interaction and discovery through links. I mean, have you seen Donny and Marie singing “Reelin’ in the Years” by Steely Dan? You must.

This article was published in 7x7's February 2015 issue. Click here to subscribe.