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Fever Pitch: Popular Penguins
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About the Author

Nick Hornby was born in 1957. He is the author of five novels, High Fidelity, About a Boy, How To Be Good, A Long Way Down (shortlisted for the Whitbread Award) and Slam; three works of non-fiction, Fever Pitch (winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award), 31 Songs (shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award) and The Complete Polysyllabic Spree; and a Pocket Penguin book of short stories, Otherwise Pandemonium. Nick Hornby lives and works in Highbury, north London.

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Brought to print to take advantage of America's presumed fascination with the '94 World Cup (the first ever held here), Fever Pitch is a 24-year obsessional diary of English club football (soccer, to us Americans) games Hornby has witnessed and the way these games have become inextricable from his personal life. Hornby is the kind of fanatic who merely shrugs about the ``tyranny'' the sport exerts over his life--the mumbled excuses he must give at every missed christening or birthday party as a result of a schedule conflict. ``Sometimes hurting someone,'' he writes, ``is unavoidable.'' These occasions tend to bring out ``disappointment and tired impatience'' in his friends and family, but it is when he is exposed as a ``worthless, shallow worm'' that the similarly stricken reader can relate to the high costs of caring deeply about a game that means nothing to one's more well-adjusted friends. These moments are fleeting, however. The book has not been tailored for American audiences, so readers lacking a knowledge of English club football's rules, traditions, history and players will be left completely in the dark by Hornby's obscure references. Unfortunately, he has neither Roger Angell's ability to take us inside the game nor the pathos of Frederick Exley's brilliantly disturbed autobiographical trilogy. Though Hornby does show flashes of real humor, Fever Pitch features mainly pedestrian insights on life and sport, and then it's on to the next game--the equivalent, for an American reader, of a nil-nil tie. Author appearances. (June)

In a humorous vein, Hornby guides the reader through a series of football matches (soccer games) played from 1968 to 1991 by an English first-division team known as Arsenal. By his own admission, the author is an obsessive supporter of ``The Gunners,'' as the team is popularly known, but not of the violence or hooliganism that Americans often associate with the game in England. Hornby's purpose in writing this memoir is to explore the ``meaning'' that soccer holds for many enthusiasts. Few people in North America can grasp the fanatic appreciation that Europeans and the British have for the game. While this book will be popular with soccer fans, patrons having little or no knowledge of the sport will require more basic information. An alternative title is Paul Gardner's The Simplest Game (LJ 1/94), which provides a more comprehensive examination of soccer. Recommended where demand warrants.-L.R. Little, Penticton P.L., B.C.

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