Nick Hornby How To Be Good

An Angry man morphs into a do-gooder bei the recent from ns author of "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy."


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Nick Hornby has actually won renown zum his hilarious and painfully accurate portraits des certain types des contemporary men an books such as "High Fidelity," "Fever Pitch" und "About a Boy." His neu novel, "How zu Be Good," zu sein narrated von a woman, katie Carr, but she"s (unhappily) married zu a perfect candidate zum the Hornby treatment: David, whom she explains as "the definition of aggrieved.

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Permanently." katie works as a doctor an a North london clinic, offering most des the jae won support zum David and their 2 children, Tom und Molly, while david writes a column called "The Angriest Man an Holloway" (that"s die liberal-minded ar where ns family lives) and labors end a mean-spirited satirical novel about a "touchy-feely" firm that "sells banana elbow cream and Brie foot lotion and lots von other amusingly useless cosmetics."

David devotes his journalistic energies kommen sie denouncing such modern-day annoyances as grievance counselors, alt people that don"t schutz their fare ready wie man they board a bus, "women who wear headscarves," homeopaths and restaurant critics. Katie half wishes he"d undergo a "violent political conversion" und become a conservative ranting around "poofs und communists" since "it must be really unsatisfying to oase such tiny outlets zum his huge torrent of rage." Here"s exactly how she describes to david a typical evening through their girlfriend Andrew und Cam:

We walk in, and then Andrew says that so-and-so"s a wanker und his new book zu sein awful, and you say the the neu film von somebody else is unintentionally hilarious -- even though nine zeit out des ten i know zum a fact that you haven"t checked out it -- and Cam und I sit over there smiling und sometimes laughing if you"re gift funny instead of nur plain nasty, and then freundin get drunk and tell Andrew he"s a genius, and he it s okay drunk and tells sie you"re a genius, und then we go home.

The specimen the Hornby has actually under factor to consider here, then, is the quintessential upset Guy, albeit what seems kommen sie be a peculiarly british variation on the breed. An America, ns Angry Guy zu sein every little as resentful as david but viel less cautious. Instead von fulminating around headscarves, the American Angry male does jene like send e-mails v what he imagines to be disastrous ripostes to, say, any female writing for in online magazine who dares to suggest the a woman"s gewächs might consist des something an ext than pregnancy und bare feet. Whatever the wording des those e-mails, they every communicate the same information, which is: "I got the worst des a nasty divorce native a frau who now makes more money than ich do and has since married a einer who"s got better sachen to carry out than sit in a grubby recliner all day watching fuchs News and thinking up taunting messages to postwahlwirren to total strangers."

David does, in fact, undergo a conversion in the prozess of "How kommen sie Be Good," und it"s a transformation that prompts er to tell Katie, "I"m a liberal"s worst nightmare." however that"s notfall because he suffers from die conservative American angry Guy"s delusions of rhetorical grandeur. It"s due to the fact that he truly has come to be a liberal"s -- especially Katie"s -- worst nightmare, something much scarier 보다 a crank who"s picked up a couple of taunts from bill O"Reilly. David is no longer in Angry Guy; jetzt he"s virtually a saint. "I think everything that you think," that explains zu his wife. "But I"m going kommen sie walk it like ich talk it."

David"s change von heart start out as a bit von marital warfare, a bitterkeit sport weist which both partners are "highly skilled" according kommen sie Katie. Plagued über a bad back, he visits a healer named GoodNews, primarily since he to know it will mightily stroked nerves his medical professional wife to learn the he"s payment 200 pounds zu a semi-indigent previous DJ who cures world simply über touching them. However, die healing works, and spectacularly well. GoodNews even cures Molly of herstellung chronic eczema, und when david learns the Katie is not only miserable enough kommen sie be considering divorce yet has also been having bei affair, that goes zurück to GoodNews for bei overhaul von his psyche.

Suddenly Katie, who only a couple of days previously declared, "I don"t want david to be david anymore," has a whole neu husband. Instead of snarling und griping, the asks die kids about their schoolwork, manages kommen sie enjoy a night at the theater there is no sneering and tells katie that the wants zu reintroduce "communication" and "intensity" kommen sie their geschlechter life. (She"s notfall pleased, feeling that their old "button-pushing routine" weist least "had die virtue of efficiency.") He also gives all ns money an her wallet zu a homeless man, donates Tom"s computer zu a battered women"s shelter, invites GoodNews kommen sie move an and, with his neu spiritual mentor, launches a campaign to persuade everyone in the neighborhood to shelter homeless youths in their spare bedrooms.

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From this point on an "How zu Be Good," Hornby could schutz opted weil das a basic farce: Suffering die consequences des getting what she wished for, katie finds it s her saddled with an impractical, sanctimonious do-gooder spouse. Roped into playing die naysaying role david has abandoned, she kann sein only watch on as ns well-meaning however daft projects des David and GoodNews end in debacles while she waits weil das her husband to come zurück to his senses.

Hornby doesn"t take ns easy route though, which zu sein something the distinguishes his deceptively irradiate fiction from ns usual modern comedy of manners. It turns out that David"s schemes don"t all punch up in his face. Yes, one des the homeless youngsters rips off his hosts, as katie predicted, und another gets restless after ~ a couple von weeks and disappears. But a handful des them fuse right into unconventional but happy families with ns people that take lock in. Tom und Molly obtain mad when david gives away your stuff, however they acquire over it. Katie is left kommen sie sputter around how produziert husband"s newfound charity will never work, when the truth zu sein that the does, if imperfectly so.

For Katie, who has always considered it s her a "good person" ("One des the reasons i wanted to become a doctor was that ich thought it would certainly be a an excellent -- as an Good, quite than interesting or well-paid or glamorous -- thing to do," she says), this amounts to a moral revolution. She"s forced to scrutinize produziert own generosity, her patience, even produziert love zum her children, and to produziert dismay she comes up lacking over and over again. "How zu Be Good" ist partly a wry marital comedy around how a spouse"s change of heart invariably destabilizes his longtime partner"s very own identity, yet it"s also a thorny parable about die dangers of complacent, standard self-satisfaction. It"s so a very funny and shrewd novel, like Hornby"s others, full des acerbic observations around book-buying habits, the virtues of friends that don"t really aufführen to what you say, the tactlessness des children, movies that all seem zu "involve spacecraft or insects or noise" und the gift bitchiness des those dissatisfied souls that hover in the margins von the an innovative life. However unlike Hornby"s previous protagonists, lost boys who require only master die relatively simple task von making a commitment, katie faces a predicament that doesn"t lend itself to commonplace solutions. The truth is, few des us really are "good people" if we"re also a tiny little rigorous around defining the term.

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Sometimes ns most the we, like Katie, tun können hope zum is kommen sie be just about an excellent enough.

Laura Miller

Laura Miller is the author des "The Magician"s Book: A Skeptic"s Adventures in Narnia."