The first ever ’Big Read’ is currently taking over KU campuses, and Nick Hornby, author and KU graduate, sat down with a full Clattern Lecture Theater last night to discuss his novel ‘About a Boy’.
A KU special edition of the novel was initially printed in 10.000 copies for all new students, but the success of the scheme has led to an additional 2000 print-run. And you certainly don’t have to look far on campus for someone deeply engaged in Hornby’s novel.
“It is very flattering to be part of it, especially flattering to be the first one chosen,” Hornby told The River. “I think that the first few days of a university year, it is kind of amazing to have something that ties everybody together.”
Dr Alison Baverstock, associated professor at KU, and in charge of organizing The Big Read scheme, said during last night’s talk, that it was important to find a novel which would potentially engage everyone, and one that wasn’t necessarily directly related to anyone’s course.
“One of the librarians pointed out to me the other day that she hasn’t seen any books just laying around, so they’ve been seized upon and taken home,” Baverstock said. She also said that Hornby, as a former KU student, was an obvious choice.
Hornby described his novel as being partially about vulnerability, and agreed that he found it fitting for a scheme like ‘The Big Read’, as the first few weeks of university can be a time when students feel vulnerable and struggle to belong.
When asked which novel he would suggest for the next ‘Big Read’ he said: “One of my favorite books is the American author Dave Eggers’ book ‘The Circle’, which I think is incredibly relevant to all young people. It’s a sort of ‘1984’ for the Facebook generation. I think it’s a tremendous book for this kind of project.”
“You don’t want something intimidating and you don’t want something terribly long, because my suspicion is that most people wouldn’t get through it. So something kind of small and perfectly formed,” Hornby said.
Hornby also revealed that while he loves reading and has a lot of favorite authors, he has never actually read any of his own novels. He described it as being an uncomfortable experience, and explained that he considered it before coming to Kingston to be able to answer questions better, but decided against it.
‘About a Boy’ Hornby describes as his first ‘real’ novel, despite being his third book, and the novel where he first realized he could support his family through writing. He also said that it was his first book where all the characters were based only on ‘observation and imagination’ and which didn’t contain any versions of himself.
Hornby got his PGCE from Kingston 30 odd years ago, but still has one vivid memory from his time here: “Being tired of working hard. I had been at Cambridge for three years, doing an English degree where I wasn’t tired and I didn’t work hard. Coming to Kingston was kind of bewilderingly intense, frightening at first. It was a bit like the first few weeks of being a father, where you are feeling like everything is bombarding you.”
Hornby spent plenty of time advising the many new students on writing, getting published, character developments and cutting once you’ve finished a piece. He said it was key to remain confident in yourself and not listen to criticism from irrelevant people.