A Long Way Down (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
It was inevitable, after so many books wrapped in yellow covers as bright as their happy endings, that the writer often credited with inventing “lad lit,” or at least lad lit lite, would eventually receive not just a bad review but a scathing one. Scathing, in fact, hardly describes Michiko Kakutani’s review of Nick Hornby’s fourth novel and eighth book overall, A Long Way Down. “A maudlin bit of tripe,” Kakutani calls it, nowhere more so than in the “sappy and predictable ending to [this] sappy and predictable novel.” Her vehemence, however, suggests a willful blindness that, in so single-mindedly attacking the novel’s weakness, perversely points the way to its greatest strength, one that the marketing hype of the dust jacket and author’s Web site entirely misrepresent.
The clue to Kakutani’s blind spot and Hornby’s achievement is in Kakutani’s review of Zadie Smith’s 2005 novel On Beauty. Clearly, Smith’s and Hornby’s novels are quite different, and not just in that Kakutani loves one and loathes the other. Where On Beauty is ambitious to a fault, albeit a fault that has endeared it to many reviewers, A Long Way Down is, marketing hype aside, a decidedly small book in almost every way that counts: language, scope, cast. For all the praise of Smith’s characterizations, it is Hornby’s novel that sticks to human scale.
Hornby’s usual subjects are here: the obsessiveness,...
(The entire section is 1258 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
The Atlantic Monthly 296, no. 1 (July/August, 2005): 148.
Booklist 101, no. 14 (March 15, 2005): 1246.
The Boston Globe, April 22, 2005, p. D6.
The Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2005, p. 17.
Kirkus Reviews 73, no. 5 (March 1, 2005): 249-250.
Library Journal 130, no. 7 (April 15, 2005): 73.
Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2005, p. E3.
The New York Times Book Review 154 (June 12, 2005): 26.
People 63, no. 22 (June 6, 2005): 49.
Publishers Weekly 252, no. 14 (April 4, 2005): 41.
USA Today, June 23, 2005, p. D7.
The Washington Post, June 26, 2005, p. T06.
(The entire section is 61 words.)