Tuesday, 26 July 2011

FEVER PITCH by Nick Hornby

Everybody has embarrassing hang-ups. Most people do not talk about these hang-ups, and certainly most people do not write books about them, so I feel Nick Hornby is to be applauded for the horrible honesty which he brings to his autobiographical book, FEVER PITCH, in which he discusses his relationship with football.

Nick Hornby likes football. He likes football a lot. More than he should really be admitting.

His obsession began when he was taken to a football match by his father, after his parents' divorce, and this is where the book begins. Hornby theorizes that he may have become so involved with football at that time in an attempt to bond with his father, or to model masculine behaviour, now he lived only with women. This sounds to me like the sort of 'explanation' you get from books such as ROOTS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS FOR DUMMIES, but whatever the reasons for his obsession, it came to dominate his life.

Hornby went to Cambridge, where he did not work very hard, and then found himself to be rather lost for a while, working at various times as an administrator, and as a teacher. After losing his first serious girlfriend, he struggled to maintain a relationship. He attended the matches of his team, Arsenal, religiously, and in many ways lived through their successes and failures, more than his own. He never, ever, misses a match, even when very ill, and is emotionally bound up in their successes and failures to an extent that is basically creepy. Thus for example, when Arsenal wins some big championship (I don't know which, I'm sorry, I found the straight football bits boring) he actually begins to turn his own life around, eventually becoming a writer.

In addition to being rather sad, for Hornby clearly struggles very painfully to sort out his life, the book is in many ways very funny. Thus, discussing a man he sees who has died of a heart attack immediately after a match, he comments: 'It worries me, the prospect of dying in mid-season like that,' and continues, 'The whole point about death, metaphorically speaking, is that it is almost bound to occur before the major trophies have been awarded.'

So a painfully honest, strangely intimate, and very funny book, about what it means to love something more than you should.


  1. I love this. In England I have a soft spot for Arsenal and the way they play. They are also usually young and spend less on players. That's Wenger for you.

    Nowadays autobiographies/memoirs are becoming more popular. Do we learn from others failures & successes or we simply want to read about the OTHER?

  2. Huh, interesting story. I hadn't known this was what this book was about! It sounds a bit creepy but also really interesting. Thanks for the review.

  3. Nice review, Sarah! I have been wanting to read this book for ages! I have read a few Hornby books and I have liked all of them - especially '31 Songs'. He has a way of connecting with the reader using simple, everyday subjects. I am not a big football fan, though I watch the Football World Cup every four years. But I am a big sports fan (of cricket and tennis), and having spent late nights and early mornings following my favourite team (and favourite players), I can understand Hornby's obsession with his favourite football team. Thanks for this interesting review. It is inspiring me to read this book now :)

  4. That is so interesting Vishy - I am not very sporting myself, so I just found it all very mysterious. It kind of almost read like someone with a very long, very strange, crush - romantically I mean. I suppose one can obsess about anything, and he did help me understand what could be so compelling about it. He has a long section on how football is better than sex . . .

    Oh goodness Nana, you are an Aresnal fan! Everyone I know in Zim seems to be Liverpool supporters, but I see lots of Arensal stuff in Kenya, for sure!