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“An ardent fan letter from Hornby that makes you want to re-read Great Expectations while listening to Sign o’ the Times.” —Vogue
From the bestselling author of Just Like You, High Fidelity, and Fever Pitch, a short, warm, and entertaining book about art, creativity, and the unlikely similarities between Victorian novelist Charles Dickens and modern American rock star Prince
Every so often, a pairing comes along that seems completely unlikely—until it’s not. Peanut butter and jelly, Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un, ducks and puppies, and now: Dickens and Prince.
Equipped with a fan’s admiration and his trademark humor and wit, Nick Hornby invites us into his latest obsession: the cosmic link between two unlikely artists, geniuses in their own rights, spanning race, class, and centuries—each of whom electrified their different disciplines and whose legacy resounded far beyond their own time.
When Prince’s 1987 record Sign o’ the Times was rereleased in 2020, the iconic album now came with dozens of songs that weren’t on the original— Prince was endlessly prolific, recording 102 songs in 1986 alone. In awe, Hornby began to wonder, Who else ever produced this much? Who else ever worked that way? He soon found his answer in Victorian novelist and social critic Charles Dickens, who died more than a hundred years before Prince began making music.
Examining the two artists’ personal tragedies, social statuses, boundless productivity, and other parallels, both humorous and haunting, Hornby shows how these two unlikely men from different centuries “lit up the world.” In the process, he creates a lively, stimulating rumination on the creativity, flamboyance, discipline, and soul it takes to produce great art.
About the Author
Nick Hornby is the author of seven bestselling novels, including High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down, as well as several works of nonfiction. Many of his books have been turned into successful films and TV series. He has been Oscar nominated twice, for his screenplays of An Education and Brooklyn. His ten-part short-form TV series State of the Union, directed by Stephen Frears, was recently broadcast by Sundance TV and the BBC and won three Emmy Awards. He lives in London.
Praise for Dickens and Prince:
“This pairing—two magnificent creatives, centuries and genres apart— makes stunning sense in the hands of their wisest, wittiest fan.”—People
“’The truth is that nobody can stay hot forever,’ Hornby observes, and so the trick is to always remember that the real prize is ‘a lifetime spent doing what you want to do.’ This feels like the solid kernel of the book’s wisdom, and an insight that Hornby is grounded enough to have arrived at in earnest. . . Hornby isn’t a genius like his two subjects, but his charming, intelligent novels have a common sense both Prince and Dickens lacked, and no artist is well advised to abandon his strength.”—Slate
“If you care about how and why art is made. . .Dickens and Prince was written with you in mind. . . It's hard to think of a contemporary author better equipped to write this book.”—Star Tribune
“Beneath the surface of this fascinating biography, there lies a warm and wise craft book about what it takes to make great art in any century.”—Esquire
“Smart, witty and weirdly convincing… Pop culture is political to Hornby. Beneath this latest book’s stocking-filler-light surface, you can sense a subtle sort of crusade. By pairing these two artists, he’s making a couple of implicit assertions — that Prince is as important as Dickens and that Dickens is as fun as Prince.” —The Times (London)
“His book is both a love letter to two artists who have nourished him and the story of how they 'caught fire and lit up the world.'" —The Guardian
“If you’ve forgotten what a distinct pleasure it is to read Nick Hornby, may I suggest Dickens and Prince.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“I love this. It's smart and funny and elegantly persuasive.” —Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, author of Becoming Dickens
“An ardent fan letter from Hornby that makes you want to re-read Great Expectations while listening to Sign o’ the Times. This slim, companionable volume combines biography—Dickens’s impoverished childhood, Prince’s bruising battle with his record label—as it champions the creative impulse to always make more: more novels, more songs. A love letter to maximalism.” —Vogue
“[Hornby’s] love for the work, for the sheer unbelievably prodigal output of both artists, is intense. And when he does write about Prince and sexuality, he is almost jarringly illuminating, particularly when he wrestles with Prince as shapeshifting sexual avatar.”—Daily Beast
“The point is to be in the company of Nick Hornby, which is always a pleasure. His writing is so quick and generous and conversational and breezy that he could write an entertaining and informative book on the history of mayonnaise. Luckily, he’s chosen two of the most captivating artists of the last 150 years instead.”—Datebook
“No one else could have gotten a book like this published, but no one else could have pulled it off, either.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Hornby’s admiration for his subjects is infectious… a zesty tribute to two cultural legends not often spoken about in the same breath.” —Publishers Weekly
Praise for Nick Hornby:
“Hornby is a writer who dares to be witty, intelligent, and emotionally generous all at once.” —The New York Times
“The clever British storyteller …[has] excellent taste and a smart, irreverent sense of humor.” —The Boston Globe
“Hornby just makes it look easy.” —The Washington Post