When Annie argues with Duncan over "Juliet, Naked," an album of previously unreleased acoustic demos of rock icon turned recluse Tucker Crowe, she accuses him of seeing her inability to share his views as "a moral failing [...] a character weakness (p30)." Tucker Crowe’s genius has been at the center of this couple's lives: Duncan, as an obsessed scholar of the singer's work ('fan' seems to be a flimsy word to use for someone who debates the nuances of a song sung by someone who could or could not be the former star); Annie, as the woman anchored to Duncan's side for fifteen years. A copy of Tucker's demos reaches them before its release and their reaction to it allows them to take a closer look at their beliefs, at their relationship, and ultimately, at themselves.
At the heart of Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked is the question of what is wasted and what can never be recovered. For Annie, it is the years she has spent in a relationship that went nowhere. For Tucker, it is the time he has spent running away from his responsibilities: his children and the legacy of "Juliet," the original album that turned him into a cult favorite. It also delves into the question of genius and art, and the "people who consume it ravenously (p70)." As with the title, the lives of these characters are stripped raw, exposed as Works in Progress, the what came before. Within them is a defensiveness not to own up to the fact that they have made mistakes.
Juliet, Naked affected me so strongly because like Duncan, I've grown used to dissecting books as he does song lyrics. There was so much of him, of the certain kind of hubris that a certain kind fan or a critic would bring to a review that felt so familiar to me. In a way, Juliet, Naked called me out on it—and yet left me feeling a little bit justified. "...you asked us to listen. And some of us listened a little too hard (p220)," Duncan says, as an apology. The image of the fanatic, especially the seemingly intellectual one who spends his time on an internet soapbox, is as unflattering as the mirror held up before me, but it is not unforgiving.
Some of the thoughts and behavior highlighted in the book made me laugh because of their familiarity: The way Annie constructs an algebraic equation to recover her wasted years (even considering what she calls her OST = own stupidity and torpor)was something with which I could relate. So did her dilemma of listening to Tucker's album before Duncan can ultimately made it seem "to belong to her more than him (p27)." My friends and I share music a lot and I understand this sentiment completely. When listening to music I enjoy, I will always equate them to the person who 'owned' them: Red House Painters to my fellow Lit grad, Maria Mena to my creative director, 30 Seconds to Mars, Snow Patrol, Florence + the Machine, and a whole slew of other bands to one of my best friends. Details like this made Juliet, Naked a very personal journey for me. I felt that Mr Hornby (always a vocal fan of music) really understood what he was writing about, and by doing so, revealed an intimate look at a world inhabited by those of us who regret and those of us who have listened a little too hard.