ALWD Question #14 ~ JJ

by Nick Hornby

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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ALWD Question #14 ~ JJ

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Nov 18, 2005 9:26 am

Let’s discuss the character of JJ. What did you think of him?
What does his character bring to the story?
Who would you cast in the role?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Fri Nov 18, 2005 9:49 am

He didn't leave much impression on me, I think he was a bit of a drip. Sorry just too long ago to recall him might be better with the others.
As to who could play him I could never quite visualise anyone when reading not like some of the other characters.

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Unread postby Charlene » Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:16 am

Character ~ one of the Masterson brothers (Chris or Danny) are the only guys that come to my mind.

JJ was shallow to me. Good grief how many people out there don't "make the band", whose music career goals don't pan out, and who have girl troubles. What I found odd, was that a "kid" that had enough guts to travel over to another country, and pick up odd jobs to make ends meet, just didn't jive with the guy who is ready to jump because his life long dream didn't work out.

Frankly, the only person I've ever heard of, of late, whose life long goal was realized is Katie Holmes! LOL. Well, then there is also Vanessa (didn't she follow Johnny's career when she was a young teen?).

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:59 am

I suppose he reminded me a bit of my 23 year old...not that he is suicidal...but in his outlook. At that age things seem to be very black and white. This is what I want therefore this is what I will get. I thought his character was a good counterpoint to some of the others, like Maureen and being the lone American gave him a different viewpoint on occasion. I am not good at casting questions. I can never remember names! :banghead: But, I picture him as tall, lanky and blonde with short, sort of spiky hair.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Fri Nov 18, 2005 12:04 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I suppose he reminded me a bit of my 23 year old...not that he is suicidal...but in his outlook. At that age things seem to be very black and white. This is what I want therefore this is what I will get. I thought his character was a good counterpoint to some of the others, like Maureen and being the lone American gave him a different viewpoint on occasion. I am not good at casting questions. I can never remember names! :banghead: But, I picture him as tall, lanky and blonde with short, sort of spiky hair.


I am sure there are some young American actors out there who would be fine for the role, I just don't know any. Maybe they will cast an unknown.

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Unread postby Bix » Fri Nov 18, 2005 12:14 pm

In his Fresh Air interview, Nick Hornby says JJ is the most directly autobiographical of the four and I think NH used JJ to show us his own love of music. Two JJ passages really stood out for me and made me understand his passion. One is on page 71: "When Big Yellow played live, it was like some kind of Pentacostal service; instead of applause and whistles and hoots, there'd be tears and teeth-grinding and speaking in tongues. We saved souls. If you love rock 'n' roll, all of it. . .then you'd have wanted to quit your job and come live inside our amps until your ears fell off. Those shows were my reason for living, and I now know that this is not a figure of speech." And again on page 149 where he talks about the song "I Got Your Back" that he and Eddie wrote and developed into their signature song, ". . .Pure joy. It felt like surfing, or, whatever, a natural high. You could ride those chords like waves. I had that feeling a hundred times a year, and not many people get it even once in their lives. And that's what I had to give up, the ability to create that routinely, whenever I felt like it, as part of my working day. . ."

I agree with Jess when she says, "I could just tell we needed JJ, and so when he appeared it felt right." It's hard to pinpoint why, exactly, they need him. But he's the "typical American self-help guy" and he does come up with the book club and music idea. He gets Martin to admit that he regards the other three of them as "not My Kind of People" and says of himself, "And now I felt like I belonged to the gang that Martin didn't like much, and I felt really committed to it." And I think he shows that commitment through the rest of the book.

I love it that he invented his CCR disease and Cosmic Tony. And I really liked his relationship with Maureen. I think he (and Cosmic Tony, of course) are responsible in large part for Maureen's beginning to make the minor adjustments that will make her life so much better.

I haven't been able to come up with an actor for JJ. I guess I don't know many young American male actors. Haley Joel Osment, maybe? (Can anyone tell that I have my office to myself today? :blush: )
Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! ~Auntie Mame

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Nov 18, 2005 1:16 pm

I do think he and Maureen had a special bond and I agree that he and Cosmic Tony were greatly responsible for Maureen breaking out. I don't have my book and am only halfway remembering a scene...the one where they are in an apartment and there is music playing from an old blues singer and Maureen really gets into the music and can't understand why the others aren't "getting it". Was that music that JJ played?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Sands » Fri Nov 18, 2005 1:45 pm

Are you thinking of the scene where JJ plays Nick Drake for the others, and Maureen's the only one that 'gets it'? I'm not all that familiar with Nick Drake, but he's more of a folk singer I think - not in the traditional sense, but as in a singer-songwriter. I gather he's quite popular with people who like to 'wallow' though, which I'd say includes JJ. I think the fact that he had to invent a terminal illness shows that on some level he knew very well that he didn't have a good reason for giving up.

I'm not very familiar with young actors either, but I can imagine Tobey Maguire as JJ, a bit like a different version of his hitcher in FALILV.
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Unread postby Bix » Fri Nov 18, 2005 1:47 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I do think he and Maureen had a special bond and I agree that he and Cosmic Tony were greatly responsible for Maureen breaking out. I don't have my book and am only halfway remembering a scene...the one where they are in an apartment and there is music playing from an old blues singer and Maureen really gets into the music and can't understand why the others aren't "getting it". Was that music that JJ played?

Yeah, I had forgotten that scene. JJ decides to try playing music for the group, since the books failed. He chooses Nick Drake, who died in 1974 at age 26 (I think it was ruled suicide, but there is some controversy over whether it was or not). I don't remember him, but here's JJ's description of his music: "If you haven't heard him. . .man, it's like he boiled down all the melancholy in the world, all the bruises and all the f**ked-up dreams you've let go, and poured the essence into a little tiny bottle and corked it up. And when he starts to play and sing, he takes the cork out, and you can smell it. You're pinned into your seat, as if it's a wall of noise, but it's not - it's still and quiet, and you don't want to breathe in case you frighten it away."

When Jess starts to make fun of the music, Maureen says, "Have you not got ears?. . .Can't you hear how unhappy he is and how beautiful his songs are?" and tells her to stop blathering and listen. And I think the things Maureen says then really touch JJ and help him remember about the vacation wish, which he then proposes to the group.
Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! ~Auntie Mame

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Unread postby Liz » Fri Nov 18, 2005 6:04 pm

I actually liked JJ. He was probably my favorite character. He seemed to be more thoughtful than the rest—more philosophical. He reminded me of Johnny in that they both are very bright and well-read, but without the official education behind them. Also, their love is music. As luck would have it, Johnny had more things go in his favor. JJ seemed to care more about people, which is based on how he treated Maureen. I think his problem was that he hadn’t grown up enough and that his expectations of life were unrealistic.

While I was reading the book I had no one in mind to play the part. I’m still thinking on that.
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Unread postby Bix » Fri Nov 18, 2005 9:12 pm

Sands wrote: I think the fact that he had to invent a terminal illness shows that on some level he knew very well that he didn't have a good reason for giving up.

I agree. And when they go to Martin's place after coming off the roof, he is about to tell them he made it up, when Maureen throws up her whiskey. And JJ says, "The truth was that I didn't feel like a dying man; I felt like a man who every now and again wanted to die, and there's a difference." I don't think I ever believed that JJ wanted to kill himself. I think he would have turned around and delivered his pizzas and gotten on his motorbike and ridden away if he hadn't encountered the others.

And I thought it was so neatly done that he finally hears what Lizzie said to him when she broke up with him. "I couldn't be with you if you weren't a musician." Not if you were famous, not if you were a part of a band - but "if you weren't a musician". That validates his idea of himself and, with Lizzie and Eddie buying him the guitar and harp, sets him free to be the busker musician he is. And I was not worried about JJ at all at the end of the book.

Liz, I guess I have to agree that JJ was probably my favorite character, too. Although, I like them all a great deal.
Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! ~Auntie Mame

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Unread postby nebraska » Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:10 pm

I liked JJ, too. I think he was young and overwhelmed by a moment, and I am not sure if he was truly suicidal or not that night on the roof, but he was lonely and drifting and he needed the others. I was so happy for him at the end when he pursued his real love, which was the music, and forgot about the trappings of fame. I think he was mostly just young....just really young and searching and a little bit lost.

I am not familiar with the young actors of today either (do they really make movies that Johnny Depp isn't in????) but I am reminded of the Happy Days television program and maybe somebody like the character of Chachi...Instead of seeing him as thin and blonde I see him more brunette, short, stocky like a football player......

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Unread postby cait » Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:45 pm

I always thought of Ryan Gosling (the guy from The Notebook) as JJ. I think he would be about the right age and for some reason I always thought of him while reading about JJ.
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Re: ALWD Question #14 ~ JJ

Unread postby DeppLovesBananahs » Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:17 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Let’s discuss the character of JJ. What did you think of him?
What does his character bring to the story?
Who would you cast in the role?


I have to say that I generally liked JJ. I thought that he was a force in the story. Like, everytime he narrated I was sucked in and understood what he was saying. I liked how he got closer to Maureen with the whole Cosmic Tony bit, I thought that was nice of JJ to consider her feelings sort of, like try to understand her.


His character brings a sort of different voice to the story, not to mention that he's American, so its a different perspective deffinitely. The American view in this story is accurate enough that you get the sense that Hornby just knows every kind of person, American, British, woman, man.

I thought of one person only for this role as soon as I started reading. Johnny Depp. I just thought he could really protray him, he could give him heart and understanding, I just really think he's the one for this one. I know others say that Martin was for Johnny, but I can't see it. I tried to see it....but I couldn't. JJ's the one that I think he would be good at.

I hope all this makes sense. :blush:

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Unread postby Theresa » Sat Nov 19, 2005 12:23 am

I liked JJ. I never really saw that he was serious about committing suicide -- I felt that had he been alone on the roof, he might have just eaten the pizza and gone back down again.

He always seemed like the narrator of the story. Everyone had their say, but JJ’s narration seemed to move the story along. Maybe because he wasn’t as introspective as the others, so he was more aware of what was happening around him and commented on it.

And I couldn’t picture an actor to portray him, partly because I can never think of good castings, partly because I don’t know any of the younger actors, but mostly because I know someone named JJ, and he’s the only person I pictured while reading the story.


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