Wednesday, March 14, 2007

About A Boy

About a Boy, by Nick Hornby
$12.95 at Bn.com ISBN: 1573229571
Hornby is famous for his popular novel High Fidelity, about a 30-something slacker coming of age. This novel has a lovable, slacker anti-hero of its own. Will Freeman has inherited money from his parents, so that he's never had to work a day in his life. Instead he's spent his life cultivating his cool image: buying the right cds, the right clothes, and so on, so that he's become the guy we all want to be. Not rich, just classy. Naturally, it's a pretty carefree existence, which has also made him a bit of a naughty boy. At the beginning of the story, we join Will pretending to be a single parent to join a group called SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together) for the purpose of picking up women. He's not wicked, just a bit rakish. You know the type.
The other major character is Marcus, a twelve-year-old who is the son of one of Will's conquests. It sounds like a rigidly formulaic set-up, but it's saved by Marcus. An introverted boy who's constantly teased by his classmates and doesn't understand why. The major influence in his life is his mother, who's a bit of a flake. Her bitterness and misanthropy have rubbed off on her son, making him an exile. Both of the male leads really appealed to me. I can relate to Will now, since I'm sort of a happy-go-lucky bachelor myself, and even if he is lazy we all want to be cool. His misdeeds are no worse than most of ours: boys will be boys. Likewise Marcus reminds me of my own boyhood, shy and uncertain, always an outsider who doesn't listen to the same bands as everyone else in his class or wear the same sneakers.
The meeting and connection between the two guys is touching. Marcus gets the father figure who can cool him up a little, and Will recognizes that the carefree life he's chosen for himself lacks content and meaning. Now I firmly resist the idea that life without having kids is empty and pointless, so at first I didn't know quite why I liked this book. Eventually I figured it out: Marcus is me as a kid and Will is me today. Wouldn't it be nice if the two could meet? As an adult most single men are a bit irresponsible and could use more purpose. Likewise the boyhood me could've used a cool adult male to tell me to lighten up and listen to some rap once in a while. Light and pleasant, with just the right amount of conflict. Check it out if you're a bachelor like me, or a chick who'd like some insight into the men in your life.

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