High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Number of pages: 323
My copy: paperback, bought from D’s Books in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Rob is a pop music junkie who runs his own semi-failing record store. His girlfriend, Laura, has just left him for the guy upstairs, and Rob is both miserable and relieved. After all, could he have spent his life with someone who has a bad record collection? Rob seeks refuge in the company of the offbeat clerks at his store, who endlessly review their top five films (Reservoir Dogs…); top five Elvis Costello songs (Alison…); top five episodes of Cheers (the one where Woody sang his stupid song to Kelly…). Rob tries dating a singer whose rendition of Baby, I Love Your Way makes him cry. But maybe it’s just that he’s always wanted to sleep with someone who has a record contract. Then he sees Laura again. And Rob begins to think (awful as it sounds) that life as an episode of thirtysomething, with all the kids and marriages and barbecues and k.d. lang CD’s that this implies, might not be so bad.
I’ve been wanting to read Nick Hornby books for a long time, but I never found a reason to pick any of them up. Sure, he was on my radar, but every time I’d be in the bookstore to get a new book, I just don’t stop by to check his books. Maybe it’s because I have a bias for female contemporary (romance) authors, or you know, I just never had a reason to, until now.
So we discussed this book last April in the book club. I started reading this as soon as I finished the previous book, and when my friends started finishing the book ahead of time, I wondered if I was having a hard time reading it because I was busy, or because I was just disinterested.
Don’t get me wrong – High Fidelity was very entertaining, and I thought Rob was a bit of an adorable music dork who was just starting to group. I liked the setting, and while I wasn’t super enamored with his friends, I thought they provided a pretty fun cast of characters. The song references weren’t exactly my cup of tea, but somehow all of them made me imagine this in a movie (even if I didn’t actually go and watch the movie version of this book).
But at the end of it all, I felt pretty apathetic over Rob. Perhaps it was his whining that got to me, which I tried to understand because I knew I also did that (and sometimes I still do that). Maybe it’s because of how he treated Laura, except Laura wasn’t so great either. I wish I can say that I couldn’t relate to him, but I have had my share of disappointments in romance – perhaps not like Rob’s, but don’t all romantic failures have some kind of common vein in them? I didn’t exactly dislike Rob like some of my other friends did, but I didn’t like him so much, either. I had no strong opinions about him (or his story, for that matter), which kind of made me pretty much apathetic to the book.
The ending was okay, and okay, I liked how there was that some sort of turnaround there for everyone. But I think that’s the extent of care I could give to this. Maybe I should watch the movie version of this for better appreciation? I would try to read another Nick Hornby book, but perhaps not anytime soon, and I would probably only do it if I was given a more compelling reason. Don’t take all of my words, though. I think it just wasn’t for me, and like Rob’s other relationships, I think that’s okay.
The best part of the book, IMHO, was the discussion. My adopted little brother did an excellent job with the discussion, and I actually bought a faux leather jacket to follow his whims as the moderator. ;)
Favorite dog-eared quotes:
…sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time. (p. 63)
…he’s worried about how his life is turning out, and he’s lonely, and lonely people are the bitterest of them all. (p. 151)