Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Dedication
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ALSO BY NICK HORNBY
ABOUT A BOY HOW TO BE GOOD
A LONG WAY DOWN SLAM
FEVER PITCH SONGBOOK THE POLYSYLLABIC SPREE
HOUSEKEEPING VS. THE DIRT SHAKESPEARE WROTE FOR MONEY
ANTHOLOGY SPEAKING WITH THE ANGEL
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Copyright ? 2009 by Nick Hornby
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Juliet, naked / Nick Hornby. p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-14054-3
1. Rock music fans—Fiction. 2. Man-woman relationships—Fiction. 3. Loneliness—Fiction. 4. Musical fiction. I. Title.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibilityfor author or third-party websites or their content.
For Amanda, with love and thanks
T hey had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet. The simple truth of this onlystruck Annie when they were actually inside it: apart from the graffiti on the walls, some ofwhich made some kind of reference to the toilet’s importance in musical history, it was dank,dark, smelly and entirely unremarkable. Americans were very good at making the most of theirheritage, but there wasn’t much even they could do here.
“Have you got the camera, Annie?” said Duncan.
“Yes. But what do you want a picture of ?”
“Just, you know . . .”
“Well . . . the toilet.”
“What, the . . . What do you call those things?”
“The urinals. Yeah.”
“Do you want to be in it?”
“Shall I pretend to have a pee?”
“If you want.”
So Duncan stood in front of the middle of the three urinals, his hands placed convincingly infront of him, and smiled back over his shoulder at Annie.
“I’m not sure the flash worked.”
“One more. Be silly to come all the way here and not get a good one.”
This time Duncan stood just inside one of the stalls, with the door open. The light was betterthere, for some reason. Annie took as good a picture of a man in a toilet as one couldreasonably expect. When Duncan moved, she could see that this toilet, like just about everyother one she’d ever seen in a rock club, was blocked.
“Come on,” said Annie. “He didn’t even want me in here.”
This was true. The guy behind the bar had initially suspected that they were looking for aplace where they could shoot up, or perhaps have sex. Eventually, and hurtfully, the barman hadclearly decided that they were capable of doing neither thing.
Duncan took one last look and shook his head. “If toilets could talk, eh?”
Annie was glad this one couldn’t. Duncan would have wanted to chat to it all night.
Most people are unaware of Tucker Crowe’s music, let alone some of the darker moments of hiscareer, so the story of what may or may not have happened to him in the restroom of the PitsClub is probably worth repeating here. Crowe was in Minneapolis for a show and had turned up atthe Pits to see a local band called the Napoleon Solos which he’d heard good things about.(Some Crowe com pletists, Duncan being one, own a copy of the local band’s one and only album,
The Napoleon Solos Sing Their Songs and Play Their Guitars .) In the middle of the set, Tucker
went to the toilet. Nobody knows what happened in there, but when he came out, he went straightback to his hotel and phoned his manager to cancel the rest of the tour. The next morning hebegan what we must now think of as his retirement. That was in June 1986. Nothing more has been
heard of him since—no new recordings, no gigs, no interviews. If you love Tucker Crowe as muchas Duncan and a couple of thousand other people in the world do, that toilet has a lot toanswer for. And since, as Duncan had so rightly observed, it can’t speak, Crowe fans have tospeak on its behalf. Some claim that Tucker saw God, or one of His representatives, in there;others claim he had a near-death experience after an overdose. Another school of thought has itthat he caught his girlfriend having sex with his bass player in there, although Annie foundthis theory a little fanciful. Could the sight of a woman screwing a musician in a toiletreally have resulted in twenty-two years of silence? Perhaps it could. Perhaps it was just thatAnnie had never experienced passion that intense. Anyway. Whatever. All you need to know isthat something profound and life-changing took place in the smallest room of a small club.
Annie and Duncan were in the middle of a Tucker Crowe pilgrimage. They had wandered around NewYork, looking at various clubs and bars that had some kind of Crowe connection, although mostof these sites of historic interest were now designer clothes stores, or branches ofMcDonald’s. They had been to his childhood home in Bozeman, Montana, where, thrillingly, anold lady came out of her house to tell them that Tucker used to clean her husband’s old Buickwhen he was a kid. The Crowe family home was small and pleasant and was now owned by themanager of a small printing business, who was surprised that they had traveled all the way fromEngland to see the outside of his house, but who didn’t ask them in. From Montana they flew toMemphis, where they visited the site of the old American Sound Studio (the studio itself having
, his legendaryJulietbeen knocked down in 1990), where Tucker, drunk and grieving, recorded
breakup album, and the one Annie liked the most. Still to come: Berkeley, California, whereJuliet—in real life a former model and socialite called Julie Beatty—still lived to this day.They would stand outside her house, just as they had stood outside the printer’s house, untilDuncan could think of no reason to carry on looking, or until Julie called the police, a fatethat had befallen a couple of other Crowe fans that Duncan knew from the message boards.
Annie didn’t regret the trip. She’d been to the U.S. a couple of times, to San Francisco andNew York, but she liked the way Tucker was taking them to places she’d otherwise never havevisited. Bozeman, for example, turned out to be a beautiful little mountain town, surrounded byexotic-sounding ranges she’d never heard of: the Big Belt, the Tobacco Root, the SpanishPeaks. After staring at the small and unremarkable house, they walked into town and sipped icedtea in the sunshine outside an organic café, while in the distance the odd Spanish Peak, orpossibly the top of a Tobacco Root, threatened to puncture the cold blue sky. She’d had worsemornings than that on holidays that had promised much more. It was a sort of random, pin-sticking tour of America, as far as she was concerned. She got sick of hearing about Tucker, ofcourse, and talking about him and listening to him and attempting to understand the reasonsbehind every creative and personal decision he’d ever made. But she got sick of hearing abouthim at home, too, and she’d rather get sick of him in Montana or Tennessee than in Gooleness,the small seaside town in England where she shared a house with Duncan.
The one place that wasn’t on the itinerary was Tyrone, Pennsylvania, where Tucker was believedto live, although, as with all orthodoxies, there were heretics: two or three of the Crowecommunity subscribed to the theory—interesting but preposterous, according to Duncan—thathe’d been living in New Zealand since the early nineties. Tyrone hadn’t even been mentionedas a possible destination when they’d been planning the trip, and Annie thought she knew why.A couple of years ago, one of the fans went out to Tyrone, hung around, eventually located whathe understood to be Tucker Crowe’s farm; he came back with a photograph of an alarminglygrizzled-looking man aiming a shotgun at him. Annie had seen the picture, many times, and shefound it distressing. The man’s face was disfigured by rage and fear, as if everything he’dworked for and believed in was in the process of being destroyed by a Canon Sure Shot. Duncanwasn’t too concerned about the rape of Crowe’s privacy: the fan, Neil Ritchie, had achieved akind of Zapruder level of fame and respect among the faithful that Annie suspected Duncanrather envied. What had perturbed him was that Tucker Crowe had called Neil Ritchie a “fuckingasshole.” Duncan couldn’t have borne that.
After the visit to the restroom at the Pits, they took advice from the concierge and ate at aThai restaurant in the River-front District a couple of blocks away. Minneapolis, it turnedout, was on the Mississippi—who knew, apart from Americans, and just about anyone else who’dpaid attention in geography lessons?—so Annie ended up ticking off something else she’d neverexpected to see, although here at the less romantic end it looked disappointingly like theThames. Duncan was animated and chatty, still unable quite to believe that he’d been inside aplace that had occupied so much of his imaginative energy over the years.
“Do you think it’s possible to teach a whole course on the toilet?”
“With you just sitting on it, you mean? You wouldn’t get it past Health and Safety.”
“I didn’t mean that.”
Sometimes Annie wished that Duncan had a keener sense of humor—a keener sense that somethingmight be meant humorously, anyway. She knew it was too late to hope for actual jokes.
“I meant, teach a whole course on the toilet in the Pits.”
Duncan looked at her.
“Are you teasing me?”
“No. I’m saying that a whole course about Tucker Crowe’s twenty-year-old visit to the toiletwouldn’t be very interesting.”
“I’d include other things.”
“Other toilet visits in history?”
“No. Other career-defining moments.”
“Elvis had a good toilet moment. Pretty career-defining, too.”
“Dying’s different. Too unwilled. John Smithers wrote an essay for the website about that.Creative death versus actual death. It was actually pretty interesting.”
Annie nodded enthusiastically, while at the same time hoping that Duncan wouldn’t print it offand put it in front of her when they got home.
“I promise that after this holiday I won’t be so Tucker-centric,” he said.
“That’s okay. I don’t mind.”
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”
“I’ll have got him out of my system.”
“I hope not.”
“What would there be left of you, if you did?”