It’s always a great period during the second semester once we’ve covered the basics to get to the classes on English literature. I’ve been reading and researching as usual this Spring, learnt some things I didn’t know and come across some gems to pass on to others.
Sticking with the idea of reading contemporary literature to improve your English here’s a guy I strongly recommend.
Nick Hornby is an English writer and graduate of Cambridge University. Easily accessible, his subject matter often deals with the addictive sides of popular culture or how deep we can fall in love with football or music. I remember my best friend introducing me to his work at school. He handed me over this massive novel, bigger than anything I’d ever read, I wondered suspiciously what could be inside. It was a story of a boy’s love, even obsession, with his local football team. Even though that team was Arsenal and not Barnet I could still see the beauty in it. ‘Fever Pitch’ is a passionate and wonderful tale that makes compulsory reading for any teenage boy.
You may know Nick’s work from the movies. Frequently popularised in the US as well as the UK, ‘High Fidelity’ deals with an obsessive music collector and makes a brilliant movie (2000). ‘About a Boy’ was a huge hit two years earlier in 1998 with the movie version starring Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult following in 2002 and more recently, ‘An Education’ (2009).
So I was excited when I recently came across an entire Nick Hornby novel on the mighty Chinese search engine Baidu:
As somebody who is a little dubious of technology, I didn’t really know what an e-book was before this. However the short and witty dialogue of Hornby’s characters works well in this portable format. It is not a long book and because of the universality of the themes and the questioning of life makes for a good listening experience.
Conveniently sliced into three parts, ‘A Long Way Down’ is the story of four characters that meet on New Year’s Eve on the roof of ‘Topper’s House’, a London building famous for suicides.
They should have known that on one of the most poignant nights of the year it would be busy with people so as they try and work each other out, it becomes apparent that the four characters have all gone up there with the same intention: to jump. So as their nerves and paranoia’s get the better of them they discuss their situations with each other and get to know each other a little. You are bound to identify with one of these characters, or several of them, such is the way of Hornby’s pen. Written like a play (with narrative from the point of view of each character at a time with four distinct accents, or dialects) it is really easy to tune in and practice your listening ability. Give it a try!
‘A Long Way Down’ was published in 2005.