Nick Hornby Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Nick Hornby emerged at the literary forefront with the publication of Fever Pitch, his 1992 memoir that focuses on his life as a fan of British football, or soccer, specifically the Arsenal Football Club. Organized as a series of short essays, each connects a theme to a specific football match between 1968 and 1992. One essay, for example, is titled “A Male Fantasy: Arsenal v Charlton Athletic, 18.11.86.”

Hornby’s first young adult novel, Slam (2007), is narrated by the teenager Sam Jones, an avid skateboarder. Sam’s hero is famous skateboarder Tony Hawk, whose poster he talks to and from whom he receives advice as he recites passages from his autobiography in Sam’s imagination. When Sam’s girlfriend Alicia informs him she is pregnant with his child, he must come to terms with pending fatherhood.

Essays that address topics also found in his fiction appear in several of Hornby’s anthologies. In Thirty-one Songs (2003; also known as Songbook), he discusses various songs, musicians, and specific aspects of music such as the emotions it inspires in him and how it has influenced his life and work. His collections The Polysyllabic Spree (2004) and Housekeeping vs. the Dirt (2006) are compilations of essays about books, some of which appeared in the book review column “Stuff I’ve Been Reading,” which Hornby has written for The Believer. In these books, he lists for specific months the books he has bought and those he has read. My Favourite Year: A Collection of New Football Writing (1993) and The Picador Book of Sportswriting (1996), coedited with Nick Coleman, gather essays about sports. Additionally, Hornby edited Contemporary American Fiction (1992), a collection of essays about American minimalist writers, and Speaking with the Angel (2000), a collection of short fiction.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In 1999, Nick Hornby was awarded the E. M. Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2003, he was presented with the Writer’s Writer Award at the Orange Word International Writers Festival, an honor chosen by fellow writers. Fever Pitch received the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. How to Be Good was long-listed for the Booker Prize and was chosen by the public as the United Kingdom’s favorite fictional work at the W. H. Smith Fiction Awards. Thirty-one Songs was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award. A Long Way Down was short-listed for the Whitbread Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, and About a Boy have been adapted into successful films.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Discuss the relationship between maturity and happiness in Nick Hornby’s novels.

How does Hornby’s use of distinctly male perspectives influence the meaning of High Fidelity and About a Boy?

Compare Hornby’s portrayal of romantic relationships to that of a female author.

Discuss the role that popular culture plays in Hornby’s novels.

Compare and contrast Will from About a Boy and Rob from High Fidelity.

High Fidelity is written in the first person while About a Boy is written in the third person. How does the difference in point of view in each novel serve to establish Hornby’s literary meaning?

How does Hornby distinguish between the trivial and the vital? Do you agree with the distinction? Why or why not?

Compare Hornby’s prose to that of another English writer.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

King, Chris Savage. “All the Lonely People.” New Statesman and Society, April 14, 1995: 47-48. In this glowing review of High Fidelity, King notes Hornby’s unique ability to evoke recognition from readers born in the 1960’s. He asserts that Hornby “is drawing new emotional maps for relationships in the 1990’s,” and that the novel is “boisterous, sad, bright and silly without grating in any of those registers.”

Madsen, Deborah L. Review of Contemporary American Fiction, by Nick Hornby. Modern Language Review 89, no. 4 (1994): 991-992. Madsen says of Hornby’s venture into literary criticism that he neglects to provide any theoretical context for his analyses of American fiction writers; rather, she claims, he resorts to “an old-fashioned formalist line,” resulting in dull essays that focus on biographical detail. Further, she questions Hornby’s lack of an introductory chapter, which makes the individual essays read like discrete pieces rather than elements in a sustained argument.

O’Toole, Lawrence. “Fever Pitch: Football and Obsession.” New Statesman and Society, October 2, 1992, 40-41. In this review, O’Toole praises Hornby’s ability to capture the nature of obsession in his “smart and wonderful book.”