The fictional American singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe achieved critical success in the 1980s with the classic breakup album Juliet. Then, at the height of his career, Tucker canceled a tour and withdrew. In the years since, a small but committed following has sprung up on the Internet, tracking every rumor or tidbit suggesting activity from the reclusive Crowe.
When a stripped-down version of Tucker Crowe’s classic album shows up in the mailbox of leading Croweologist Duncan and his girlfriend Annie, the duo’s relationship is already on the rocks. They’ve remained together for 15 years—more out of habit and proximity than passion, given the lack of options in their bleak, seaside English town. Their polar reactions to the new album, Juliet, Naked, only heighten Duncan and Annie’s differences.
Duncan is the kind of neurotic fan who intimidates others, turning them away from music instead of toward it. Anyone who has obsessed over unreleased material or bootlegs of their favorite band’s shows will identify with him immediately. He knows too much, finding significance in every note his favorite musician plays and every syllable he utters.
That arrogance pushes Annie to the edge. After the couple posts their differing analyses of the album on Duncan’s Tucker Crowe fan site, Annie and Duncan’s paths split—and converge with Tucker Crowe’s—as they set out after their own lives.
Juliet, Naked is classic Nick Hornby, with characters internally debating what is worthwhile as their lives are lived out to a soundtrack. At the same time it’s a fresh story of these curiously interwoven lives and perspectives. Each Hornby venture exhibits his considerable talent, whether through a novel, memoir or collection of essays. But it’s the music-oriented books that often draw a cult following, not unlike that of Juliet, Naked’s Tucker Crowe. And Hornby’s insights into the rabid fan are as acute as ever—not a surprise, given his own obsessive listening.
Carla Jean Whitley attends way too many concerts and regularly interviews musicians in Birmingham, Alabama.