In ‘fever pitch’ with a losing season
Many of us have a sports team we passionately support. And if they have a losing season, it can send us into the depths of doldrums for the whole season. We experience this vicariously in Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch.
More than just being about a long-suffering football fan, Fever Pitch gives an account of Nick Hornby as he navigates the demands of
childhood, adolescence and bachelorhood while nursing an obsessive devotion to soccer.
The reader gets glimpses of a boy going to matches with his father, and how he gradually became obsessive with the game; to the extent, even as a kid, of going by himself. We are given to understand that this is one of the few pleasant memories he has of his father.
If I am repeating myself in saying this is a book about Nick Hornby’s obsession with soccer, consider this excerpt from the book:
“It worries me, the prospect of dying in mid-season …, but of course, in all probability I will die sometime between August and May. …”
“Maybe we will die the night before our team appears at Wembley, or the day after a European Cup first-leg match, or in the middle of a promotion campaign or a relegation battle, and there is every prospect, according to many theories about the afterlife, that we will not be able to discover the eventual outcome. The whole point about death, metaphorically speaking, is that it is almost bound to occur before the major trophies have been awarded. …”
“I do not wish to die in mid-season but, on the other hand, I am one of those who would, I think, be happy to have my ashes scattered over the Highbury pitch (although I understand that there are restrictions: too many widows contact the club, and there are fears that the turf would not respond kindly to the contents of urn after urn). It would be nice to think that I could hang around inside the stadium in some form, and watch the first team one Saturday, the reserves the next; I would like to feel that my children and grandchildren will be Arsenal fans and that I could watch with them. It doesn’t seem a bad way to spend eternity, and certainly I’d rather be sprinkled over the East Stand than dumped into the Atlantic or left up some mountain.”
The very first page will resonate with any sports fan. You will know what I mean when you read it.
This 1998 Nick Hornby novel is one of the first books to talk about what it is like being an obsessive football fan while also ostensibly being a responsible adult who does “have a life”.
It also made it “respectable”, in a class-obsessing England, to admit that you’re a middle class person who is obsessed with football.
Nick Hornby books have received huge acclaim and popularity, so much so that a number of his titles have been made into movies. Nick Hornby never disappoints as a writer and is well worth checking out his other titles.
List of Nick Hornby novels include:
- Funny Girl – “addictively readable”.
- Juliet, Naked – adapted into a film starring Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd and Ethan Hawke; the book is written with Hornby’s “likably bleak humour” and with the usual 40-something year old obsessive protagonist.
- Slam – Nick Hornby applies his novelist wit to what it really means to become a man.
- Stuff I’ve been reading – a tour through Hornby’s reading list as he writes for the magazine, Believer.
- How To Be Good – a “dark espresso-strength comedy” on “a subject almost nobody else has written about”.
- 31 Songs – personal, passionate pieces on what music is to Hornby.
- Songbook – this is a deluxe, limited edition reprint of Nick Hornby’s ode to the art of pop music.
- Ten Years in the Tub – something “to soak in and savour”, making standing in line “a blessed interval for snorting another page”.
- Shakespeare Wrote for Money – more of Hornby’s columns from The Believer, with his usual “highbrow and otherwise” wit.
- More Baths Less Talking – a further tour through Hornby’s reading list, telling us not only what to read but how to read.
- The Polysyllabic Spree – exactly as the subtitle says “A Hilarious and True Account of One Man’s Struggle with the Monthly Tide of Books He’s Bought and the Books He’s Been Meaning to Read” and all of the wit that we have come to expect from Mr. Hornby.
- Not a Star – Hornby applies his literary wit to a plot about a mother finding out her son is a porn star. You know what to expect.
Movies based on Nick Hornby novels/screenplays:
- Fever Pitch – starring Colin Firth
- A Long Way Down – “It’s serious literature…no, it’s popular entertainment…no, it’s both!” A long way down book is another of Hornby’s novels made into a movie.
- High Fidelity – Hornby captured “the loneliness and childishness of adult life with such precision and wit …“. Made into a movie.
- About A Boy – a ‘coming of age’ novel made into a movie starring Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Grant, Toni Colette and Rachel Weisz.
- An Education – an adapted screenplay for movie starring Carey Mulligan, Peter Starsgaard, Emma Thompson, Dominic Cooper and Alfred Molina.
Nick Hornby mentions included:
- Speaking with the Angel – edited and introduced a compilation of short stories written by twelve original writers.
- Fan’s Notes – wrote the foreword.
The above is by no means a comprehensive list of Nick Hornby novels and other writings. Of the lot, I believe I’ve only read Fever Pitch, High Fidelity and About A Boy. And I can conclusively say that his sole sports book remains a ‘must read’ in the genre. So go have fun browsing through your local library’s shelves.
Direct links to Fever Pitch and other book titles in this article (and anywhere on this website) are not necessarily the cheapest. The links were chosen either because it was the exact edition that I read, or it is a limited edition, or I just grabbed the first convenient edition. I strongly suggest you browse round the Booktopia site to get the edition that would suit your reading budget or aficionado proclivities.
Here’s a quick and easy link for a quick search of the titles you’re after:
Some may even have e-book versions.
You can also search online but I would really prefer you ordered from anyone other than Amazon. The merchant world of books must be presided over by booksellers who are lovers of stories and books and nurturers of man’s flights of fancy and musing. Their literary emporiums and wares must not be made obsolete by an online mall-type provider that pays minimum to its workers and affiliates.
And if you’re really after a free copy, just ask your local library. Public libraries have my greatest respect for providing one of life’s greatest pleasures freely.