Nick Hornby's novels have been the basis for some very memorable and heartwarming films, but there's more to the 52 year-old Oscar nominee's career than About A Boy, High Fidelity, and this year's An Education. From his home in London, Hornby took a few minutes to speak with Fabio Periera about the recession, his writing, and mixing it up with singer-songwriter Ben Folds.
Fabio Periera: How's your first awards season treating you?
Nick Hornby: I've got no short or long term memories left. It's all the traveling--more than I'm used to doing in the general run of life.
FP: It must be very different to a writer's life in London.
NH: It's a pretty quiet life most of the time, so this has come as a shock to the system. It's been great (but) I don't think I can do it very often. Presuming that this is something that doesn't happen very often.
FP: Aren't the English a bit skeptical of Hollywood?
NH: I think part of it comes from the fear that people not entirely unlike us are living so much nicer a life. Here it's cold and wet and we have a self-deprecating negative kind of culture, which I feel quite comfortable with, really. To get on a plane and fly to L.A. and sit by the pool at the Beverly Wilshire, you think, "God, some people here live like this all the time, writers included."
FP: When I lived in London a few years back, London seemed very flush with cash. How do you feel about living in London during the recession?
NH: I think (the British) have been quite badly hit by all the money (woes).
FP: Has the recession found its way into your writing?
NH: No, not yet. I think it takes a while to process things and I think it should. I am always reading things in the paper saying why aren't novels reflecting this. As you say, a couple years ago we had lots of money, all the Canary Wharf bankers were being touted as the new kings adnd writers were being castigated for writing this. If I'd written a novel about Canary Wharf bankers and it have come out in 2010... You have to watch and see what happens and be careful about reflecting (events) like (the recession) properly.
FP: You've said elsewhere that you don't like to adapt your own work to the screen. Why is that?
NH: I have to do a lot of writing to produce a novel. It's more a feeling of a sense of completion when a novel is published (and) not wanting to take it apart. Most of adapting (a novel for the screen) is leaving stuff out if it's a longer piece of work. Only a third of a novel can appear on the screen. And on top of that, I'm kind of done thinking about those people and those situations.
FP: Do you ever get writer's block?
NH: It depends on what you mean. I think there's got to be some official writers block time. I've not had a period of six or eight months where I felt I couldn't write. As I understand it, it's all about confidence. I think you have to do all you can (to stay) in a frame of mind where you think people want to listen to you and we all have moment where we think the opposite.
FP: Do you think of your work as being particularly British?
NH: Maybe one of the ways in which I work best is to notice what's universal about what is particularly British. When I wrote High Fidelity, it felt to me as particularly British. After it was released, I felt that people in other parts of the world were responding to the parts that (they saw in their own lives).
FP: Why do you think people responded to An Education?
NH: I think they respond totally to it. I think it's that thing of being made to laugh, and if you're lucky poeple feel quite choked up by it as well. I think that counts for a lot in a movie-going experience. I think it's particularly British but people take on board the rules, restrictions and conventions that come to (Carey Mulligan's character) Jenny and in that way it works like a Jane Austen novel and people absorb the conventions as they go along.
FP: Which Jane Austen novel would you say the film is most like?
NH: (Laughs.) Good question. Persuasion. (Laughs.)
FP: How would you respond to critics who say An Education had anti-Semitic undertones?
NH: Well, I felt I'd written a film that was partly about anti-Semitism, and I was sort of a bit depressed that people felt that writing about anti-Semitism meant I was anti-Semitic.
It was based on a piece of a memoir that was written by a Jewish man. (The criticism) doesn't seem to have amounted to very much. It was very strange because I developed the film with a Jewish director and we developed it for a Jewish producer at the BBC and it never occurred to either of them that the film could be interpreted in this way. It didn't seem (right) to me not to make (Peter Sarsgaard's) character Jewish because that would have been more offensive the other way around.
So, when the initial accusation was made I was surprised and shocked and it made me very thoughtful about it and I've kind of examined it from every angle and my conscious is clear about it. It seemed to me that the reaction was from America and not from England. I think English people understood that (the film) was set in a time when there was anti-Semitism and there was a subculture of Jewish petty criminals at the beginning of the 60s. I think part of the reason there was this subculture was because of anti-Semitism and there was no way for them to integrate into society...
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