A Long Way Down

Writing about pop culture is very similar to ripping a solo on a guitar. Everyone tries to do it, but very few do it well. One of those who can do it well is Nick Hornby. Nick is a very busy man, releasing his fourth novel – A Long Way Down-, writing for David Egger’s rag – The Believer -, and having everything he touches turned into a movie – Fever Pitch, About a Boy, High Fidelity, and Fever Pitch again (staring the man I most want to punch in the face, Jimmy Fallon) – so you’d think he’d eventually write something that didn’t hit home with pop culture fanatics.

This is not the case. His latest novel is the story of four people who all find themselves on the top of same building on New Year’s Eve. What do they have in common? Absolutely nothing, except they all want to kill themselves. In normal times, Maureen, Martin, JJ and Jess would be as likely to hang out together as me showing up at a U2 concert, but the events that bring them together inflicts a bond on the four of them that keeps them together.

Hornby writes these characters perfectly. Maureen is a lonely, religious shut in saddled with more baggage than a horse on the Pony Express. JJ is a failed American rocker trapped in the realization he is not a superstar musician. Martin is a washed up, socially shunned TV personality, and Jess, well Jess is a crass, punk rocking, 18 year-old debacle. The characters are so different that they fuel interesting conversations and observations about the types of people you run into every day. The book is written as four separate first person narratives, so you get a unique interpretation of how each person sees the events that happen to the group.

Although the focus of the novel is obviously the characters and how they relate to each other, there still has to be plot. That’s the only weakness of this book. The idea of how the characters all meet is fantastic, but the plot gets looser and looser and starts to fall apart a bit around the midway point. That being said, I didn’t mind, as I was more into reading about the characters. The events that happen actually border on inconsequential in my opinion.

If you are looking for a witty, humorous novel laced in pop culture and human relationships, this book is perfect for you. If you are looking for twists and turns and edge of your seat drama, you might be better off served ordering up one of the 5 versions of the DaVinci code.

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