I’m just about half-way through Songbook and thought I’d bring you a status report — though I promise an actual review once I finish. I breezed through the first 92 pages while on the train Monday night (and into Tuesday morning), eagerly gobbling up Hornby’s prose despite the distractions at hand.
The thing about doing anything on the train is that you are bound to be interrupted. Most people tend to keep to themselves during late night rides, and it’s certainly a more sedate group than Greyhound travelers (shudder), but every now and then I find myself next to a Seat Hog.
Monday’s SH was on her way to Chicago, and I could understand her need and desire for sleep, especially considering that the train was running over three hours late, and it would be many more before she reached her destination. She lay curled up next to the window seat, and I tried my best not to disturb her as I sat down and arranged my bags and accoutrements. And then it hit me.
Literally, her sweater/coat/giant-red-something-that-wasn’t-a-Slanket hit me. Specifically, its pocket. Girlfriend had jammed some major gloves into that thing, and it packed quite the punch. Somewhat startled, I tried to reposition myself further away, only to find The Pocket yet again pressing into my side. This little dance continued for the duration of my ride, The Pocket creeping towards me, The Sleeve even finding its way across my lap at one point.
I suppose I can’t really blame the woman for being a Seat Hog, since it seemed to be mostly her sweater’s fortitude that kept thrusting itself my way. Anyway, what all this has to do with Songbook is, is that even though I had to wrestle with The Sweater From Seat Hog Hell and smell the slight stench wafting up from the woman’s admittedly kicky flamingo-patterned socks, I was still able to focus on, and delight in, my book.
And boy, what a book. Every time I read something of Hornby’s, I feel like he’s sitting across from me and we’re having a conversation. He says everything that I’ve ever wanted to say about music but couldn’t quite articulate. Take this quote from an essay he wrote circa Songbook about Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker, and Adams’ ability to turn torment into musical genius:
What rights do we have here? Are we entitled to ask other people to be unhappy for our benefit? After all, there are loads of us, and only one of them. And how can you be happy, really, if you are only ordinary in your happiness, but extraordinary in your grief? Is it really worth it? It sounds harsh, I know, but if you are currently romantically involved with someone with a real talent — especially a talent for songwriting — then do us all a favour and dump them. There might be a ‘Heartbreaker‘ — or a ‘Blood On The Tracks’ or a ‘Layla‘ — in it for all of us.
I mean, is that not just a perfect paragraph?
Songbook is littered with soliloquies like this, except Hornby isn’t just talking; he’s talking to you. And as he’s relating to you, you’re relating to him, and everything is just…wonderful. It’s an experience I’m not finished with yet, and one I can’t wait to see through to its end. Stay tuned.