I stood in line, having examined each of the oversized wall calendars on display on a wooden bookshop rack, holding a gleaming new hardcover copy of Juliet, Naked and examining my options.

A yellow Post-It had my name on it. I could keep it on the title page of this new book or place it on the corresponding pages of either my well-worn movie-edition paperback copy of High Fidelity or my slightly less worn but equally loved paperback  copy of Housekeeping vs. the Dirt. Whichever book was chosen as Bearer of the Post-It would leave this bookshop inscribed by Nick Hornby.

(The obvious answer to this, one would think, is d) None of the above. “Songbook, you idiot. A book about songs? Could there be something more fitting for you, Victoria?” The truth of the matter, however, is that Songbook was a good read and a reflection of good writing, but it didn’t grab me with the iron grip some of his other work did. I should reread it, but my copy is missing in action at the moment. And my hardcover copy of A Long Way Down seems to have disappeared – temporarily, I hope. And I haven’t been able to find my copy of Fever Pitch since I moved from Vermont. I suspect it’s in one of the boxes of newspaper odds and ends that I really just need to go through already.)

I finally decided that Housekeeping would be wisest. While I assumed I would enjoy Juliet, I hadn’t read it yet and didn’t want to run the risk of having one of my absolute favorite writers – if not my favorite altogether – sign a book I didn’t enjoy as much as the others. As for Fidelity, the creases on the front cover certainly reflected the manner in which the book has traveled with me over the course of eight years or so, but it’s not exactly in inscription-worthy shape.

Housekeeping fit the requirements nicely: in good shape, a book I enjoy and a very nice title page. On went the Post-It.

When the opportunity to meet Hornby approached, I saw a woman close to my age stumble through an awkward attempt to establish a rapport. I thought back to the times I’ve met people in the musical equivalent of these settings and the way I always half-wished after that I’d never sought out that facetime. I preferred imagining that the encounter would be full of wit and zing, not stammering and awkward pauses.

So I kept it simple as he wrote “For Victoria. Love, Nick Hornby” on the title page of my book. A bright hello, a quick inquiry about how he was doing followed by a “thanks so much, have a great evening.”

But what I was thinking was about how happy I am that someone back in college told me that a John Cusack movie I’d never heard of mentioned Belle & Sebastian, a reference that turned me onto a writer whose voice has captivated me, encouraged me, pointed me in the direction of books and songs while making me feel OK with my turns toward nonfiction and occasionally self-centered ramblings. I was thinking about how appreciative I am of his gift and that he shares it with his audience and about how there aren’t any other authors out there for whom I would try to track down all of my copies of his written work and lug them along in a handbag so I could figure out which one would be the most appropriate for him to sign.

I like to think that he’s smart enough and familiar enough with his audience to be able to read all that between the lines of my less socially awkward hello and thank you.

Besides, we have a bond. “Love, Nick Hornby.” He knew.

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