Finished reading Nick Hornby’s How To Be Good last night. I haven’t read anything else by Hornby, but I enjoyed both the film adaptations of About A Boy and High Fidelity, and in the commentary for the latter, the Weitz brothers talked about how easy it was to make that film because of the great writing in the book.

So I thought I’d start with one I haven’t seen on film yet, and that was probably a good idea: no comparisons to make about how the story develops, the characters arc, or why the adaptation did this or that. Purely on its own merits, I think How To Be Good is a very well-written book, if a bit challenging in spite of its pervasive humor. Challenging in the sense that it’s like reading distilled anxiety on every page. (And hey : the narrator is, in a sense, unreliable. She’s flawed, for sure, and her flaws render the retelling of events that could be depicted in a very charitable, almost saintly way instead as very nearly malicious. Fascinating stuff, that.)

Overall, I recommend it. Just don’t read it when you’re on vacation. 😉

“What I read on my summer vacation” by Kate O’

9 thoughts on ““What I read on my summer vacation” by Kate O’

  • July 29, 2004 at 12:12 am
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    Hornby is an amazing writer. AMAZING. Every time I read something like his, I get all wistful that I will never be anything like that sort of writer. He’s got such a unique, clever style of distilling a character’s thoughts.

    I read _About a Boy_ while I was in Singapore, and it nearly killed me. It is *so* much better than the movie. It was a perfect example of “don’t judge a book by its cover”, though, because it was subtly about all sorts of things that the blurb on the back of the book didn’t prepare me for. Ironically, there was a quote in the book about just that sort of experience that summed up exactly how I felt!

    -J

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  • July 29, 2004 at 12:13 am
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    Something “of” his, of course. (There isn’t anything “like” his.)

    -J

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  • July 29, 2004 at 12:29 am
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    I love that book! It’s the first Nick Hornby book I ever read (and I read it before seeing any of the movies actually) and I absolutely adored it.

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  • July 29, 2004 at 12:30 am
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    Yeah. That’s great. I remember reading it when you quoted it, but I’d forgotten it was from that book.

    There were several passages in How To Be Good that were almost agonizingly insightful. I was totally envious.

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  • July 29, 2004 at 6:34 pm
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    I thought the movie was good in a different way. (This is all part of my learning to appreciate movies as the visual medium they are without demanding that they be as verbal as the books I love.) But the book was more complex and, I thought, allowed us to get deeper into the characters.

    Anyway, both wonderful. And I was surprised to think so since I didn’t actually like High Fidelity (the movie). And am still creeped out by Mr. E saying he really identified with the protagonist.

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  • July 30, 2004 at 1:05 am
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    I thought the movie was good in a different way … until the end. In fact, right up to the end, I was all ready to say that this was another wonderful example of how the art of adaptation should work: NOT following the book word-for-word, but taking things that work in print and substituting them for equally interesting different things that work onscreen. I was sure I knew where they were going with the talent show thing (which wasn’t in the book), and it would have been someplace very clever that fit in very nicely with the original message of the book. And then they went somewhere completely different, somewhere that communicated the utterly opposite message. I won’t give anything away beyond that, since this is K’s journal and she hasn’t yet read it, but I find that very hard to forgive, especially after everything was such a wonderfully rendered (i.e., not faithful except in spirit) adaptation up until then.

    -J

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  • July 30, 2004 at 3:04 pm
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    For what it’s worth, spoilers matter to me not at all. I regularly read reviews of movies before I see them and I always know tedious details about the storyline and execution before I so much as rent the DVD. Books are pretty much the same for me, so feel free to disclose whatever you like in my journal. 🙂

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  • July 31, 2004 at 4:13 am
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    Oh my god – you’re so right, and I had actually managed to forget about the ending! I just remembered things like the shot where the kid goes to sign up for the talent show. I love that shot so much. And the scene where the kid is listening to his headphones, & the scene where Hugh Grant finally listens to his father’s song… I had, in fact, managed to block out the ending.

    Movie adaptations subvert the message way too often. >:(

    K, you should really read the book, the ending is great. Really, really wonderful.

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