The light-hearted social commentary at work in Nick Hornby’s sixth novel, Juliet, Naked, is at once incisive and “pop” oriented, much in the same way that his earlier novels were. The text is once again littered with references to albums, musicians, and detailed mythologies that obviously help shape Hornby’s stylistic vision. Specifically, what is satirized in Juliet is the overly obsessive music fan and how obsession influences the relationship of said fan to the world-at-large.
The object of affection in Hornby’s novel is a fictionalized singer-songwriter named Tucker Crowe, who, after releasing several critically acclaimed albums, has retired and been artistically quiet for over 20 years. The novel revolves around a British couple, Duncan and Annie, and Duncan’s role as a “Crowologist,” or a Tucker Crowe scholar, and the subsequent effect it has on their relationship. An unreleased version of Crowe’s famous breakup album, Juliet, has been released as Juliet, Naked, and piqued the interest of fans worldwide. Duncan has dragged Anne along on a “Crowe pilgrimage” to the U.S., during which they visit various sites well known to fans as having significance to Crowe or his music. But during the trip, an encounter that becomes too real for Duncan leaves him questioning his obsession with the minute details of Crowe’s life.
The book’s title is itself a a play on words on whatever bootleg recording you want to read into it, really: the Beatles’ stripped-down re-released recordings, the Blood on the Tracks New York sessions (an album that is mentioned several times in the text), or any famous bootleg mythologized by obsessive fans. With Juliet, Naked, Hornby has successfully reconfigured his own obsessions with music and pop culture into a palatable storyline that the reader with these same obsessions can easily identify with.