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on June 10, 2016
A vivid and sometimes poignant story of a London boy, who comes to be an ardent fan of Arsenal Football Club. He recalls in detail his impressions of attending Arsenal matches from the late-1960s to early 1990s. It's also a story about coming to terms with his father's divorce, friendship, and romance. The book was first published in 1992 and was very appealing to blokes of a certain age, who followed English football (soccer) in these years. But the book still has lots of value and the author has added a thoughtful 5 page Afterwood that was written in 2012. Applause for Penguin for republishing this as a Penguin Modern Classic.
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on March 18, 2015
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on December 14, 2003
This is a cool book, and a very good book, but a tiny little "je ne sais quoi" keeps me from giving it that last and final fifth star.
To summarize the book superficially in a sentence, it's an autobiographical retelling, in a very witty first-person voice, of the author's (London journalist Nick Hornby) lifelong love of soccer and his passion for the English pro soccer team Arsenal (which plays in London). Thrown in are side stories about his boyhood, his relationship with his parents, and his posse of friends, love interests, and workmates who either do or don't share his love of the sport.
One problem for North Americans is that this is a truly English book, in that it contains tons of references to little villages in England, little UK customs, judgments and descriptions of London neighborhoods, etc., that left me feeling like a Yankee hick who'd never left the trailer park. Indeed, that is my problem and not the author's, but North Americans who don't know English culture well will feel lost at times.
Another problem is that the book, like the TV show "Seinfeld," isn't really about anything. Sure, there's a lot of chatter about soccer, but not in any sort of methodical or educative way. It's basically a willfully disorganized diary about 20 years in the life of a clever, witty Englishman (from about age 10 to about age 30) who allows soccer to dominate his worldview and, alas, his whole life. It comes down to the amusing musings of a 30-something Londoner, which makes the book fascinating but not monumental.
The obsession with soccer is the strength and the weakness of the work. If you want to learn about English pro soccer, you will be disappointed. If you want to learn first-hand, from a very imaginative and clever soul, about what it was like for one particular person to grow up soccer-mad in southeastern England the 1970's and 1980's and how it impacted the rest of his life, then this is the book for you.
I'm a big fan of Nick Hornby, and a better book of his, and a better "starter book" for him, is "High Fidelity."
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on October 27, 2003
"Fever pitch" is Hornby's first well-known book, a precedent to "High fidelity" and "About a boy". Hornby is one of the two british people that has brought a new meaning to pop-culture; the other is Helen Fielding. Hornby's characters are simple, common people that live unusual situations and relationships along his common lives. In this case, Hornby's character is himself, and the book is about his relationship with London soccer team Arsenal.
To me this book was fun to read because, like Hornby - although in a much, much smaller degree - I am a soccer fanatic, and, like him, my favourite team - Corinthians Paulista - is also one of the most popular and inconstant teams in my country. Hornby writes his book describing how his life was related to Arsenal's achievements. When Arsenal was doing good, Hornby was doing good. When Arsenal was struggling, Hornby was in depression. Of course, there's much more to it than just that, but it is interesting to observe the development of Hornby's obsession, because it can happen to anyone, at any time.
The problem with "Fever pitch" is that, if the reader doesn't like or doesn't know soccer there will be a lot of skipped paragraphs, and maybe the book will be put aside before the end. Even if the reader can see this story as a metaphor, soccer is ever-present and cannot be dissociated from Hornby's life. I liked it and understood it because soccer IS a very present thing in my life. Maybe if it was about cricket, I would not have liked it.
Grade 8.8/10
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on August 8, 2002
I've been meaning to write a review of this book for a long time, but since Nick Hornby reawakened in me many of my childhood sports fan obsessions when I read it for the first time in 1999, I've been too busy. Not only did "Fever Pitch" remind me how irrationally and how much I loved my own hometown team (the heartbreaking Boston Red Sox) but he turned me into a fan of English football and his own Arsenal Gunners to the point where I follow them daily on ESPN's soccernet, LISTEN (!?) to them on internet radio broadcasts and have even gone to two games in London over the past two years. It's sick really, and I suppose it's not the kind of thing Hornby would have wanted when he wrote this quintessential memoir of growing up a soccer fan in England, but I've enjoyed it
"Fever Pitch" is an obsessive's tale as much as it is a fan's story, and so should appeal to the same wide audience that enjoys his excellent novels (It was my love for "High Fidelity" that sent me straight to this book). It is a memoir of surprising depth considering how it is organized only by the dates of soccer matches between 1968 and 1991, and it makes perfect sense that Hornby, or any true fan, should see the rest of his life (parents' divorce, his own education, romantic and career trouble) primarily as it relates to the team he spends so much time, money and psychic energy on.
The irony, for me, was finding out after I read "Fever Pitch" for the first time that Arsenal was one of the top teams of the last decade in England, so Hornby at least gets to feel the joy that we Red Sox fans are still waiting for. Sure, we're ecstatic the Pats won the Super Bowl, but our lives will change forever when Boston brings home the World Series. But after "Fever Pitch," I'll remember to laugh like the rest of the world laughs when American sports leagues crown their title-holders "world" champions.
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on March 19, 2000
With 'High Fidelity' opening in theatres soon (supposedly at the end of March 2000), the buzz from Nick Hornby's work will reach a fever pitch. Want to know where Hornby finds the inspiration and raw material to craft the exquisitely detailed and accurate pictures of male angst such as Rob Fleming ('High Fidelity') or Will Freeman ('About a Boy')? Look no further than the life of Hornby himself.
On the surface, 'Fever Pitch' follows Hornby's life-long obession with Arsenal, the English Premier league team he dutifully follows through good times and bad. But this is more than a story about football (or soccer, if you will). It's also the story of a complex person struggling to make things right with his family, the various woman that pass through his life, and his career.
Make no mistake: the brilliant writer that created Rob Fleming did not appear overnight. Like Rob, Hornby struggled with his passions for years before achieving his breakthrough with 'Fever Pitch.' A previous reviewer notes that this is a biography that does not work because of the author's lack of an 'interesting life.' I disagree - the reason Rob Fleming connects with so many readers (see the 'High Fidelity' customer review section for the raptorous comments from men and women alike) is because of his normalcy and our shock at seeing so many of our own thoughts crystallized so perfectly on the page.
The same holds true for 'Fever Pitch,' but with the caveat that a lot of what you read here is distilled through the experience of English football.
My recommendation: if you're a football/soccer fanatic, this is a book you simply must read and keep in your collection, regardless of whether you've read either of Hornby's other works. If don't know *anything* about the game and are not too keen to learn, read this book only after you've read 'High Fidelity' and 'About a Boy.' Then sit back and marvel at the connections between the trilogy of characters that are Hornby, Fleming, and Freeman.
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on February 19, 1999
Let me get this straight -- Hornby takes us through some two decades of his fanatic devotion to Arsenal and in the course of that time they win -- by my count -- at least four major championships of the endless variety that European football seems to offer. This is suffering???? Gees, he should be a San Francisco Giants fan like me and you folks in Chicago would find him even more of a whiner. Still, he's a lot of fun in his whiny fandom, and more than once you'll feel this book is a mirror of your own disproportionate affection for a sports team that has broken your heart too many times to count. Give this book to your wife, girlfriend (or for that matter, husband or boyfriend) who just doesn't understand why you have to slip away from the party, the restaurant, to seek out a TV, or call a scoreline and check how the lads are doing (although you know, of course, that they are losing). It's also worth noting that Fever Pitch was made into a pretty good movie which, to my knowledge, hasn't been released in the US. I saw it a couple years ago on an airplane across the Atlantic before I'd read the book or heard of Hornby's novels. Last thought: the best book ever of this biography/sports fan genre is Frederick's Exley's A Fan's Notes.
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on March 31, 2000
When I received `Fever Pitch' a couple of years ago I thought, "How nice. A book about English soccer (of which I am a fan)." While this is partly true, there is so much more to this book than that. It is about dealing with relationships; family, friends and others. It is about the process of growing up, and all the problems it entails. It is about frustration and desire and dreams and secret fears. It is about obsession, in whatever form it takes, and how some people seem to be particularly prone to it. Which means that, ultimately, I feel that I can identify with the author in a way that I have not been able to with other books that I have read. I've now read it seven times in the last 2 years. Every time that I read I laugh, cringe, get angry and cry at the events that Hornby relates. One passage has helped me in particular, Hornby writes "Non-footballing friends and family have never met anyone madder than I; indeed, they are convinced that I am as obsessed as it is possible to be. But I know there are people who would regard the level of my inadequate." If only I could get my wife, family and friends to read this book I am sure they would look upon me much more kindly. No matter what your obsession might be, I think that reading this book will help you to understand yourself just that little bit more.
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on July 11, 2003
Sports fan? You'll like this book.
Soccer fan? You'll really live this book.
English soccer fan? You'll love this book.
Arsenal fan? This will be one of your favorite books ever.
I am all of the above. But I am also a fan of good writing. Nick Hornby has proven (with books such as "High Fidelity " and "About a Boy") that he's an excellent writer. In tackling (pun intended) the sport and team he is obsessed with, Hornby is being faithful to the notion that writer's should deal with topics familiar to them.
"Fever Pitch" is a love story. It is about one person's unconditional love for a sports team. There have been other such books before, but none better. Hornby explores the intersecting of love of team (and living and dying with their results) with the annoying business of the "rest of life." Any sport fan will be able not to just relate to the book, but seem themselves in it. Those familiar with English football (soccer to the heathen) will identify all the more.
Sports fans should read this book for a glimpse at how others see us.
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on December 27, 2002
As an American who knows just a bit about FA football I had no problem diving right into the source of this fine work.
It's about the pain and struggle of being a professional sports fan.
Being a Cleveland sports fan I felt right at home with all of this, yet strangley detached.
Heck he can talk all he wants about having to deal with the frustrations of Arsenal - which have won quite a fair share of Cups throughout his musings - but I sit here as a sports fan near Cleveland, OH without any memories of winning any chanpionships. Last title was in the 60s by the Browns - pre Super Bowl.
That's pain Mr. Hornby.
The more I read the more I connected Hornby with that of an English version of a New York Yankee or Dodgers fan. Always, always crying poor mouth when there are clearly worse off franchises in the world.
Regardless, Mr. Hornby explains it all so well. But, if you really want to know how losing affects a soul check out Terry Pluto's writings on the Cleveland Indians. That's sad stuff.
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