100. An Interview With Nick Hornby…

21 Jan
100. An Interview With Nick Hornby…

What better way to mark my centennial blog than with an email interview I carried out with one of my all-time favourite authorsNick Hornby. For the questions I collaborated with a friend who writes for an anglocentric magazine in Buenos Aires, Ultrabrit, and the interview was arranged at the recent launch of Nick’s latest book, ‘Things I’ve Been Reading’, blogged about a few weeks ago.

Here are the results…(and a track from Nick‘s project with Ben Folds to keep you musical company whilst you read!)

1- If you could live one week in any of the universes you created in url

your books, coexist with the characters and hang out with them,

which one would you choose and why?

Well, I’m not sure any of them live in such a great universe, and in any case, all my characters tend to live in a world similar to the one I already inhabit. So maybe I would choose ‘Fever Pitch‘, simply because that world has gone completely now. I’d like to go back and watch another game at Highbury, the old stadium of Arsenal. .

2- Regarding the collaboration CD you released with Ben Folds, would

you consider writing more lyrics? How was the songwriting experience?

Yes, of course – it was a terrific experience, and Ben’s a wonderful songwriter. Coming into work, logging on, and picking up an mp3, a finished song that Ben had produced overnight, was about as much fun as you can have as a writer. I want to collaborate with as many talented people as possible while I have the chance – musicians, actors, directors, artists, whatever. I spend a lot of time on my own at a desk, and any chance I get to do something different I’ll take. I learned a lot, with Ben – mostly, that music is the most important part of a song.

3- You are always passionate in encouraging people to read, whatever

they enjoy and however they can. You are also equally clearly a

bibliophile who loves the thrill of browsing for books. As someone who

has written e-reader specific pieces, where do you stand on the books


Books vs E-Books: is there a debate?
Photo used under Creative Commons license from here.

vs e-books debate?

Is there a debate? What’s it about? For me, it’s all the same, and writing is writing, in every medium. I was resistant to e-readers for a long time and on balance I’d rather read a book. But I’d also rather pack a very slim device into my carry-on bag, rather than a great big bulky hardback. The interesting thing about e-books is that they can be any length you want. We are beginning to realise that the ‘natural’ length of a book, somewhere between one hundred and fifty and nine hundred pages, isn’t natural at all, but a by-product of the technology. And now new technology means that books can be a million words long, or five thousand words long. .

4- George Orwell wrote a famous essay entitled ‘Books vs Cigarettes‘:

if you were to write one entitled ‘Books vs Albums,’ and had to come

down in favour of one or the other, which would it be and why?

I don’t think I do have to come down in favour of one or the other, so I won’t. But I will say this: our relationship with a piece of music is ongoing. Our relationship with a book is usually over once we’ve read it. So even though I love both equally, I can contemplate losing my books, if I have to, but not my music.


Books vs Music

5- Arsenal win the Champions League or Nick Hornby wins the Nobel Prize

for Literature: choose one.

Oh, ask me something difficult! I have no ambition to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I won’t. .


6- You were a high school English teacher: what advice would you give

to English teachers today to get students to read and enjoy more?

As the father of boys who are reluctant readers, I think I’d tell teachers not to worry about it. Literacy is important, and all the studies show that a child’s ability and desire to read for pleasure is an important indicator of future mental health and prosperity. But don’t be prescriptive. Let them find pleasure anywhere – in comics, in the sports pages of newspapers, in Harry Potter, in Dickens, whatever. .

Photo by amrufm, via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by amrufm, via Flickr Creative Commons

7- Your father was a Sir: would you enjoy the title? What are your views

on monarchy?

Being a knight, a ‘Sir,’ isn’t that much to do with the Queen, even though she hands out the honour – it’s recognition for excellence in a particular field. So the former Manchester United player Bobby Charlton is a ‘Sir,’ and Michael Caine, and so on. It always feels to me as though they’re telling you your career is over, so I’d feel a bit uncomfortable, I think. .

8- Your books have incredible cross-over appeal for cinema audiences.

Are you as big a movie fan as you are a literature and music fan? Do

you enjoy watching your books turning into films?

About-a-Boy-2002-movie-posterYes, I watch a lot of movies, although it’s much, much harder to find good movies than it is An_Education_posterto find good music or good books. It costs nothing to write a book, and with all the new technology it costs very little to produce an album. But it still costs millions and millions of dollars to make a film, so there has to be some guarantee of revenue before anyone will invest that sort of money. You need franchise movies, big stars, and the biggest audiences are young audiences, (although increasingly film companies are finding out that old people will spend money too.) Movies like An Education, which I thought became a fantastic film, are so hard to make that it takes years and years, and the effort nearly kills you! No big stars, no obvious audience. But I have enjoyed all the films that have been made from my books. I tend not to have a lot to do with them, but I’m happy they exist, and I’ve made good friends through them. I also enjoy adapting. ‘An Education’ was an adaptation, and last year I adapted Cheryl Strayed‘s ‘Wild’. And my script of Colm Toibin‘s ‘Brooklyn’ will go into production in a few weeks.


9 – You are a driving force behind the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

shop: how hands on are you with the after-school writing programme, and

how are the students’ writing skills?


I don’t do any tuition at the moment. My job is to keep the Ministry Of Stories running, and that takes up a lot of time. Last year I was involved with a wonderful album, SHARE MORE AIR – the kids wrote the words, musicians like Emily Barker and Matthew and the Atlas wrote and recorded the music. I’m so proud of it. If I can keep things like that happening, I’m happy.

To play us out, here is my favourite clip from the movie adaptation of one of my favourite novels, High Fidelity, which also happens to be one of my favourite movies, and features one of my favourite bands.



Posted by on January 21, 2014 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 responses to “100. An Interview With Nick Hornby…

  1. nycavri

    January 25, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    I would argue that it is no longer difficult or expensive to make movies. Of course, I just sat in on a Masterclass (“Fake Blood, Real Guts”) on the subject. The difficulty, as with literature and music, is in finding an audience.

    • doronklemer

      January 26, 2014 at 12:01 am

      True: although i think it’s still much easier to make an album or write a book than it is to make even a basic movie, (you still need some sort of funding for the latter, i imagine?)

  2. Fernanda Bomfati

    January 28, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Hi, D.
    I was in the walking tour in Lisbon last weekend. I love writing as well and I got curious about your blog.
    I’m also a Nick Hornby’s fan and I can recognise the pattern (bought/read) from The Pollysyllabic Spree, hahahahah.

    Anyway, as a (pseudo)writer I know the value of a reply, so I’m just commenting to say that you have a really nice blog.

    Keep up with the good work!

    • doronklemer

      January 29, 2014 at 10:58 pm

      Olá Fernanda!!

      Thanks for dropping by, first the tour and then the blog!
      Yes, I started this blog after being inspired by Nick’s Believer articles/book compilations, which I’m completely addicted to. I imagine you haven’t read that far back yet, but I admit this freely in my very first blog:

      and later in a review of the magazine the articles come from, The Believer:

      I’m heading over to your blog now: hope you enjoy mine, and it brings back some Lisbon memories!

    • doronklemer

      January 29, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      Oh, you don’t have a blog apparently!! Keep up the writing, wherever you’re doing it! 🙂


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