Product DetailsSONGBOOK by Nick Hornby (2003)

From “Born for Me” (Paul Westerberg)

…just a man who thinks and feels and loves and speaks in music.

How magical to be a musician. To look at some dots on paper

     And hear

           What is yet unheard.

How mesmerizing to be a writer. To look at some words on paper

     And envisage someone’s spirit.

How sublime to be a painter. To look at some brush strokes on canvas

     And witness

           The conscience of a community.

Without the creative urge, however it manifests itself, we are no different from telephones. Its importance cannot be overstated. A real writer “thinks and feels and loves and speaks” in prose or poetry. I would be happy for my students to do any two of those.


From “Frankie Teardrop”, “Ain’t That Enough” (Suicide, Teenage Fanclub) 

It’s a peculiarly modern phenomenon, this obsession with danger. And, in the end, it’s impossible not to conclude that it has been born out of peacetime and prosperity and overeducation.

Man, I am so down with this! Obsession with danger makes my job hell. It makes living where I live hell. It offers nothing, repairs nothing, solves nothing. It makes slaves of us all.

From a writer’s standpoint, these statements express so much, yet without bombast or melodrama.  Hornby shoots from the hip. Simple english simply stated. No wasted words.  Even “peculiarly”, while I don’t think it’s necessary, adds a uniquely English quality to his writing, so that it’s not just a writer expressing his opinion, it’s an English writer.  However, he does use one of Orwell’s traits of bad writing: what Orwell calls a “verbal false limb” — “impossible not to conclude that”.  In straight English, I think it means “the only conclusion that makes the most sense”.  This blip does not make him a bad writer.  Orwell himself has offered an out: “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.”


From “Smoke” (Ben Folds Five)

…songwriting is an art distinct from poetry.

I can see that. One of the differences is execution.

…and you don’t have to be whoever writes the songs for Celine Dion…

That would be Aldo Nova – yeah, that one. I wish I WAS kidding!

…you can, if you’re brave, have a go at being Cole Porter, and aim for texture, detail, wit, and truth.

The same idea could apply to writing. Fortune and Venus favor the brave, after all.  Anyone can write pop pulp.  Barnes & Noble and Borders are full of it.  What they’re NOT full of, and neither is the New York Times Bestseller list, is books that contain that alchemical combination of “texture, detail, wit and truth”.  And you know why? Because that’s not what appeals to the masses.  We would be a very different country if Alexander Pope, Aristophanes, and Voltaire were on the bestseller lists regularly.

From “A Minor Incident” (Badly Drawn Boy)

My advice to young writers: Never begin a title with a preposition, because you will find that it is impossible to utter or to write any sentence pertaining to your creation without sounding as if you have an especially pitiable stutter.  “He wanted to talk to me about About a Boy.”  “What about About a Boy?”

I think this is hilarious!  Reading it looks funny.  Sounding it out in my head, it sounds funny.  Good advice.  But feel free to break this rule, if you think you can make it work.



*A nod to Stevie Wonder for the title.

**All of the songs and this book are available through major retailers.


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