Writer Nick Hornby seems about as American as an English writer can be. He claims modern American writers like Carver, Ford and Tyler as his models, and his first book collected his essays on American fiction. A couple of his narratives have been easily Americanized for the movies: the novel High Fidelity and his memoir Fever Pitch. Only About a Boy maintained its original north London locale.
Hornby's straightforward style and typical subject - the man intent on retaining his boyhood - seem almost American as well.
nly one of the tricks up Hornby's sleeve. He could probably patent the ironic wit that triumphs over modern ennui. And his happy - but not entirely so - endings have helped return such deliverance to popular literary favor. His first person approach makes his protagonists relatable even in their darkest moments.
Hornby's recent A Long Way Down features more of that darkness than usual as the voices of four suicidal would-be jumpers - a talk show host, a failed rock star, a wild teen-aged girl and a middle-aged mother - tell their stories that add up to one about what makes life worth living. The teen-ager writes, "I felt so heavy that I knew I'd hit the street in no time. I'd beat the world record for falling off a tower block."
The multi-genred writer's other books include Songbook, which combines some of his New Yorker music reviews with others, and The Polysyllabic Spree, a collection of his highly regarded "What I've Been Reading" columns for The Believer magazine. Hornby's novel How to Be Good (2001) was a candidate for the Booker Prize and in 1999 he received the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Nick Hornby will appear in all his voices on March 20, 7:30 p.m., reading in Butler University's Delbrook Visiting Writers Series, in the Atherton Union Reilly Room. The event is free. For info: 317-940-9861.