2008: 108. A Long Way Down

“Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of the tower block? Of course I can explain why I wanted to jump off the top of the tower block. I'm not a bloody idiot.”

A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby

I enjoyed the heck* out of this book.  I had read Hornby's High Fidelity, and liked it, and read his collections of literary essays, The Pollysylabic Spree and Housekeeping and the Dirt, and I occasionally read his blog, and I must say, I just like the way he writes.  I mean, it isn't Proust, but the books are funny, and well written and he has something to say (largely about figuring out how to live your own life best you can, and be as happy as you can), and I just enjoy them.  And it isn't as easy as it seems to write a funny, light book well, as evidenced by all the crappy books that get written along those lines.  So I guess I am declaring myself a Hornby fan, and I am going to read the rest of his stuff, too.  Because it's not demanding reading, but it is enjoyable, and I think it's well done.  And I tore through this book - my friend Ellen lent it to me yesterday, I started it on the bus ride home, and basically didn't put it down.  Well done, Nick Hornby.

The premise of A Long Way Down is that four people who all intended to commit suicide by jumping off the Toppers' House tower (which is a big tall building in London, I guess), instead run into each other doing it, and don't.  And they, instead, get involved in each other's lives.  And it sounds self-helpy, but it isn't - there is no faked up happy ending, just a decision, eventually, that as bad as things are they are better off alive, and they end the book on the slooooow process of trying to fix things.  Which sounds more like oh, Doestevsky than a comic romp, but the book is actually quite funny - I laughed aloud, which I rarely do (particularly in the scene when they interacted with Jess's ex, Chas).  The New York Times Book Review said "Hornby is a writer who dares to be witty, intelligent and emotionally generous all at once" and I think that is just about spot on.  Too often funny books are either mean spirited (see, e.g., Evelyn Waugh), or emotionally empty (see, e.g., Wodehouse), but this was funny and said something, and I actually really liked it.


*Heck, because this is part of my new, almost a mom, effort to clean up my language.


Date/Place Completed: 8/22/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017