Hornby was pretty brilliant tonight. I had a really great time.
Well, first of all, I should say that while looking for my copy of How to Be Good earlier today, I found my copy of High Fidelity. But then I decided I didn't want to get that one autographed, as it was the movie cover, and I'd lose street cred. I thought I'd just get him to sign the new copy I had bought, and then pick up another new copy for superfailure, whom I'm compensating for getting Chuck Klosterman to sign a copy of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs for me. But when all local book stores were sold out of anything Hornby, I just decided to give Leanne the new copy, and have Mr. Hornby autograph my movie-cover copy. Which is just as well, cuz it's the one that's yellow and worn and dog-eared and gotten me through the last eight years.
ANYWAYS, Brett came with me to the event, on time and in good seats and all that. And then there was Hornby.
He came out and opened by reading a short story called "Nipple Jesus" that he had written for the collection of short stories that he edited, Speaking with the Angel. It was really amazing to hear him read something that he had written, and something that I had never read before. He did voices and everything. And the story was.. I'm getting that book.
Then he read a few excerpts from A Long Way Down. I had just finished this book about two hours before being there, so then hearing the author read it, in the voices and intonation he had imagined for them was amazing. And I highly reccomend this book. It's not High Fidelity, or even About a Boy. It's dark, touching, and funny all at the same time.
Anyways, then he took questions. Most of them were pretty generic writer questions. I thought I had the most interesting one. He called on each person by pointing at them and saying, "Hi." Which, I guess, is just better than saying, "Oi, you!" So, the time came when said "hi" to me. I'll recall the best I can.
me: Um, well I read High Fidelity when I was a freshman, sophomore in high school.. so it really impacted a lot of the ways that I thought about relationships, and music, and people--
he: I'm sorry.
me: ..But the thing that's given the most trouble is the "what you like" vs. "what you are like" debate. I was just wondering what you personally thought of it. Because I've dated girls who thought Kelly Clarkson was brilliant, and gotten on with 'em pretty well. But at the same time, do you feel like there has to be a connection in tastes?
he: Well I-- wait, are there any hardcore Kelly Clarkson fans in the room?
he: I think it's definitely a question of compatibility, and not one of value. Kelly Clarkson, ya know, for example.. I'm not saying anything about the quality of her music, but it's easy. It's accessible. You can pick it up at the supermarket. There are people whose life doesn't completely revolve around culture. You and I are not these people. But it doesn't mean these people are bad people. Ya know, if someone listens to Kelly Clarkson and then goes and works with disabled children all day, ya can't go, "Well, you're a bad person." "But I work with disabled children!" "Doesn't matter. You listen to Kelly Clarkson."
So that was that. Afterwards, we stood in line to get books autographed. I own all of his fiction novels, and had just purchased Songbook earlier that night, but had decided that all I wanted him to autograph was High Fidelity. It's kinda like God autographing The Bible for me. Except, not, I guess, cuz ya know, God didn't write The Bible.
Anyways, we got to the table, and as he signed and personalized my book, I thanked him for coming and for taking my question and all. And he told me that the issue (what you like vs. what you are like) is something he had been struggling with more and more, but that he just didn't feel comfortable judging people, especially on what they read and the like. Then Brett stepped up and asked if he had picked out any of the music that we heard before or after the show, and he said he hadn't, but that he liked all of it. And mentioned that he thought events like this should have an iPod deck on every chair, and each person gets to choose music equally. We thanked him again and left.
And that was my visit with the man who changed my life.