cover image Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius

Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius

Nick Hornby. Riverhead, $18 (192p) ISBN 978-0-593-54182-1

What did writer Charles Dickens and musician Prince have in common? “They have both lived on, of course, but more vigorously than one might have expected,” according to this breezy take on creativity by Hornby (Just Like You). For Hornby, both men are sui generis talents, and he finds no shortage of parallels between them as he unpacks the artists’ lives, the movies (or Dickens’s case, musicals) their work inspired, their mid-career productivity, and their business conflicts (Prince battled with his record label, Dickens railed against intellectual theft). A mixture of speculation and research comprises the section “Women,” which explores Dickens’s and Prince’s wives, lovers, and muses. Hornby writes that Prince was a “relatively rare creature, the androgynous heterosexual,” while Dickens’s penchant for younger women was a “weakness.” At the end of their lives—Prince died from an accidental painkiller overdose, and Dickens was felled by a stroke—Hornby concludes that both had become cultural touchstones, but were hopelessly addicted to work. Hornby’s admiration for his subjects is infectious, though readers who come to this with a basic knowledge with either artist will find much of the terrain covered here familiar. Even so, it’s a zesty tribute to two cultural legends not often spoken about in the same breath. Agent: Georgia Garrett, RCW Literary. (Nov.)