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Dear Thursday: LONG WAY DOWN by Nick Hornby [Book 10 of 2010]

Funnily enough, this is only the the second book of the year by an author I’ve already read before. Go figure.

alongwaydownWhy I Decided To Read It: I used to be a HUGE Nick Hornby fan … before grad school and his many movie deals. And somehow I didn’t realize that I was no longer reading his stuff, until I ran across this audiobook at the library. So it felt a little bit like reconnecting with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in over ten years and being reminded of why I liked him so much in the first place.

What’s It About: Four disparate people decide to attempt suicide in the exact same way. Upon running into each other while trying to commit said suicide, they form quirky suicide club instead. As you do…

What Makes It Different: Suicide as humor isn’t necessarily new, but this is like suicide as humor times four.

What I Loved: This novel was ridiculously cynical in a really wonderful way. Also, the four characters really do come from different walks of life. I’m a plot-driven writer myself, so it was really refreshing to read stream-of-consciousness that didn’t make me want to bang my head against a wall. Last but not least, the dialogue was top-notch.

What I Didn’t Like: There was one American musician character in this lot who was such a cup of tepid tea, that I felt sorry for the interesting character that could have taken his place in this book. This could have been made up for by his insights on being an artist, but unfortunately those came too late in the book for me to truly take an interest in his character. I never got over my dislike. Also, the ending in general felt a little rushed after the leisurely stroll through the characters’ lives.

Writing Lessons Learned:

Take the most unlikeable people you know and make them understood. What’s funny about this novel is that none of the characters are particularly likeable. In fact, they all have pretty good reasons for wanting to end it all. But it occurred to me while reading this book that unlikeable people are perfectly likeable as long as the reader is made to understand them.

Situations! Situations! Situations! This is a book of situations. In many ways there isn’t much of a plot, only four characters being put in really interesting situations. It made me think about how a good situation can make even the most mundane scenes pop. Seriously, every time these people met at Starbucks, you knew something interesting and funny was going to happen.

Let your characters ramble. All of the characters in this book tend to ramble on before getting to the point. So many interesting ideas are introduced in this manner, that I began to resent that most American novels tend to be plot-driven. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for make every piece of dialogue and action count, but I wonder how many great ideas we’re missing out on in American novels, b/c we don’t waste any time on things that aren’t germane to the plot.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Musicians, People Considering Suicide, Mothers of Special Needs Kids, PostSecret Readers, Starving Artists, Divorced Fathers, Scandal-Ridden Celebrities, and Unlikeable People.

Click on the cover pic to buy the book.