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With book 'Juliet, Naked' and film 'An Education,' Nick Hornby is on a roll

NEW ARSENAL: Hornby finds a grown-up view of youth.
NEW ARSENAL: Hornby finds a grown-up view of youth. (Bill O'leary/The Washington Post)
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By Joe Heim
Washington Post Staff Write
Sunday, October 25, 2009

Busy Nick Hornby.

New novel. New screenplay. Songwriter in his spare time.

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Interviewer. Interviewee. Dad of three.

And yet here he is, strolling in for a chat in a room off the bar at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, looking relaxed, refreshed, full of cheer. It's not quite what you expect from a man who has made something of a career of exquisitely crafted angst.

Well, why not the good vibe? "An Education," the movie for which he wrote the screenplay and which his wife co-produced, has been flooded with critical praise, earned raves (and whispers of Oscar) for the performance of its young star, Carey Mulligan, and scored the top audience prize for foreign films at Sundance earlier this year.

And with its prickly humor, warm spirit and rock-and-roll-obsessive theme, Hornby's new book, "Juliet, Naked," has fans and reviewers alike comparing it favorably to "High Fidelity," his breakout novel of 14 years ago.

If all that weren't enough, the 52-year-old Brit has also been having fun of late collaborating on songs with power-pop tunesmith Ben Folds. An album has been threatened.

So, Mr. Hornby, tell us a little, then, about this golden touch of yours.

"Yeah, well it doesn't really feel like anything to do with me," Hornby says with a laugh. "When I look back on the actual creation of them, all I can really remember is playing solitaire on my computer. It's not like I enter this zone where stuff pours out and I'm pleased with it. It feels like I've smoked myself sick and played too many computer games and then write in these frustrating little bursts. The touch doesn't feel so golden in my little office."

There you have it. One of the more successful authors of the past two decades writes between extended breaks of cigarettes and video games. Take heart, slackers!

But of course the bald-as-a-button Hornby, unassuming in his jeans, T-shirt and dark blazer, is being a bit humble about all this success. After all, three of his books have been turned into movies. One, "Fever Pitch," has been turned into two movies.

Hornby doesn't love talking about his books; "I think it's really hard to cheerlead for your own work unless you're an ass," he says with a laugh. But he is quite thrilled to talk about his new film -- which he has seen seven or eight times -- because it was a collaborative process. He worked closely with his wife, Amanda Posey, and the director, the actors and the entire crew it takes to make a film.

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