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November 14 , 2007

Everyone's Reading Bastard


Bestselling author Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “Fever Pitch,” “About a Boy,” “Juliet, Naked”) is a virtuoso at love gone wrong. In his new short story, “Everyone’s Reading Bastard,” Hornby paints a wincingly comic picture of just how messy modern relationships can become, as his characters hit delightful new lows of cruelty, misery, and pettiness.

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“Read what you enjoy, not what bores you,” Nick Hornby tells us. That simple, liberating, and indispensable directive animates each installment of the celebrated critic and author’s monthly column in the Believer. In this delightful and never-musty tour of his reading life, Hornby tells us not just what to read, but how to…

Newspaper columnist Elaine Harris has always written about her life with husband Charlie. Her editor and her legions of readers count on full disclosure from her, but what no one—least of all Charlie—anticipates, only a week after the couple decide to end their marriage, is the speed and inventiveness with which she begins to try him in the court of public opinion. On Monday morning, it’s a smirk by a forgettable former lover that first clues him in that something’s wrong. Then, before he’s settled in at his desk, another co-worker salutes Charlie with the title of Elaine’s new column: “Bastard!” A quick check online leads him to the column, the subtitle leaving little doubt as to what he’s in for: “Life with an Ex. He’s Gone but Not Forgotten.” Charlie’s only hope is that Elaine will get bored and abandon the weekly column—a colorful litany of his failures as a partner, father, breadwinner, and lover—or that it won’t catch on. But soon enough it’s a multimedia feeding frenzy, and everyone’s reading Bastard! And for Charlie, that’s a bitch.

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