I've just finished Funny Girl by Nick Hornby, a book I'd decided against buying in hardback some weeks back when at Elliott Bay Book Company. Scott, being a nice sort, decided on a whim to buy a copy for me at the satellite University of Washington Bookstore at some point between "some weeks back" and a few minutes ago, when I finished reading the book. One pauses here, perhaps, to think about the effort required to get the times straight in storytelling. It's trickier than it looks, I'm thinking.
The book is 452 heavily leaded pages long and the bit that caused me to laugh came on page 450. I'm not sure what the signifies but it struck me, nonetheless, as significant. It was a good bit, the bit on page 450, and maybe what made it work for me was that it was a scene set in 2014, a year with which both I and Mr Hornby are pretty darned familiar, rather than 1967ish, when Nick, I see would have been about ten and I was yet younger. (Second pause to note the shock I feel at finding someone being published who is actually older than I am.) In his acknowledgments, Mr Hornby thanks his historical sources, and my theory of the moment is that somehow, at some level, the bulk of the book felt more secondhand. "Look at how these people used to be! Marvel at the time when homosexuality could get you sent to jail! Just imagine the first time "Hair" was performed!"
Which isn't entirely fair or an entirely accurate portrayal of the book or my reaction to it. It was a fine book and, despite the title, it wasn't supposed to be a comedy, I don't think. It purports to be a novel about people, regular human beings and their regular issues which aren't necessarily all that different in 2015 than they were in 1965. There is some nice stuff, again at the end, about how people of a certain age look at the world/see themselves/see their lives. I swear Scott and I just had this talk two days ago:
Sophie laughed. She always knew the kind of noise she wanted to make, but it always came out wrong, croaky, phlegmy, cracked. The terrible thing was that one always thought everything was temporary--the croak, the creaks, the pains, the insomnia. All those things used to be temporary. They cleared up. Not anymore. (from p. 414)
One way or another, the swinging sixties scenes don't resonate so well. Maybe because I wasn't a swinging sixties person, or maybe because Nick Hornby wasn't. Yet I was disappointed to realize that the 1960s portion of the book was suddenly over. Alas, I'm not sure what that signifies.
Most of Sophie's life (aka 1968 - 2014) passes on the blank pages between pages 405 and 409. Her scenes that follow, including the bit quoted above, nicely address the changes between her life as a twenty-something and her current existence at about seventy and I sort of feel like those first four hundred pages are just setting up the final fifty; that Mr Hornby's point has nothing to do with the dawn of television in the UK. But, really, I can't decide what I think about that--whether it makes sense to spend quite so much time setting something up. But it's not entirely just a set-up, I don't think, and there's enough story to prevent the covers from banging into each other which is my too-lazy-to-find-the-actual-quote way of finishing up this little excuse of a review/post.