Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby


Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby (1992)

If I have one major flaw in how I spend my reading time, it’s that I restrict what I’m reading to one of two areas (mostly poetry and history). That said, I’ve decided this year to broaden the book pool somewhat and have branched out to include more fiction (especially classics) and biography. This is not to say I’ve done as much reading in 2011 as I would like to, but the fact remains that I know where I’m going for the remainder of the year.

With this in mind, I’ve been reading Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby, an autobiographical work recounting the author’s life experiences as a young man making his way in the world through the filter of his favourite soccer club. To tell the truth, the only reason I started reading this book in the first place is because I, too, am a supporter of Arsenal FC who, for those unfamiliar with British footy, play in the Barclay’s Premier League, the top flight of the sport in England. The fact that it took me being a fan to lead me to the book, despite there being a movie based on it (Colin Firth starring), should tell you what type of people will likely find this sort of writing of interest. I can’t imagine someone who is not a soccer fan reading the book, unless that person has read and enjoyed Hornby’s other novels.

That said, the book is engaging in its use of humour (sometimes jovially Falstaffian, or at times pointedly sarcastic) in looking back at mistakes made by the author in his early life. There is a constant resignation about these events associated with the fact that Hornby is obsessed with his club and there is  a certain fatalism inherent in that. Being aware, it seems, of one’s shortcomings is part of the supporter’s psycho-social existence and those I have spoken with prove this by being somewhat self-deprecating and acknowledge that they are a little “strange” or “weird”. For this reason, I’m still coming to terms with my own relatively new relationship with Arsenal. As someone who is, essentially, stoic I have a tendency to be ruled by logic and less by the heart (some may see me as passionless, inaccurate as this may be), but giving into moments of rash and unchecked lunacy is very much a part of being a soccer fan. There is also, at times, a somber, sobering reality present in the book and here I’m thinking of the sections devoted to riots, resulting deaths, and racism that have become a part of the sport’s jungled history.

The writing itself is suitable for the subject and audience one would expect for a book such as this. The language is casual, diction very much relaxed as one would use talking with fellow supporters of  a sports team. There are a few moments scattered throughout where Hornby waxes philosophical about life, love, and the human condition, but these flow naturally from the book’s content. Major points in the author’s life, milestones, successes and failures, are echoed by Arsenal’s successes on and off the pitch (or lack thereof). The highs are magical, mysterious and wonderfully engaging; the lows equally so.

Though a stretch from my usual reading, Fever Pitch is a welcome diversion from my verse-centred sensibilities, or any other genre of interest.


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