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review 2017-02-08 05:08
A LONDONER'S VIEW ON LIFE, LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS & MUSIC IN THE 1990s
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

So far, "HIGH FIDELITY" is one of the most entertaining, laugh out loud funny, and insightful novels I've read this year. Though it must be admitted that the main character, Rob Fleming - a quirky and rather self-centered man in his mid-30s, who is the owner of a record shop in the heart of 1990s London - can come across as whiny and egotistical. Yet, he is not without his endearing qualities.

The reader is given entree into Rob's life at a time when his girlfriend Laura (with whom he has shared a flat for a few years) has left him. He is at a loss and begins to reflect on what he regards as his "all-time, top five most memorable split-ups", which began with Alison Ashworth in 1972 when Rob was barely into his teens and culminated with Sarah Kendrew, a relationship that lasted between 1984 and 1986. It was a treat to be given a retrospective tour of Rob's love life with these 5 women. His personal observations I found very revealing, though he could be a bit insufferable. Here are some of his musings that gave me much food for thought:

"... what was the significance of the snog? The truth is that there was no significance; we were just lost in the dark. One part imitation (people I had seen kissing by 1972: James Bond, Simon Templar, Napoleon Solo, Barbara Windsor and Sid James or ..., Omar Sharif and Julie Christie ...) to one part hormonal slavery to one part peer group pressure ... to one part blind panic ... "

"Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands - literally thousands - of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don't know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know that they've been listening to the sad songs longer than they've been living the unhappy lives." - p.19.

Music is the metaphor that infuses and enlivens "High Fidelity." Rob lives and breathes it. Indeed, his music store (with his two employees, mild-mannered, steady, and self-effacing Dick and know-it-all, sardonic Barry) is an extension of himself. There is an instance where, one night after closing shop, Rob, Barry, and Dick go to a pub for a few beers and entertainment. The entertainment comes in the form of Marie LaSalle, an American singer/songwriter whose look reminds Rob of the actress Susan Dey as she was when she starred in the late '80s TV drama "LA Law". He is enthralled with her singing. What I found both funny and poignant was his admission of the effect Marie LaSalle's version of Peter Frampton's 'Baby, I Love Your Way' had on him. Let me cite in full what he had to say about that. (When I was reading this section of the novel on the subway, I had to restrain myself from laughing out loud and uproariously.)

"Imagine standing with Barry, and Dick, in his Lemonheads T-shirt, and listening to a cover version of a Peter Frampton song, and blubbing! Peter Frampton! 'Show Me the Way'! That perm! That stupid bag thing he used to blow into, which made his guitar sound like Donald Duck! Frampton Comes Alive, top of the American rock charts for something like seven hundred and twenty years, and bought, presumably, by every brain-dead, coke-addled airhead in LA! I understand that I was in dire need of symptoms to help me understand that I have been deeply traumatized by recent events, but did they have to be this extreme? Couldn't God have settled for something just mildly awful - an old Diana Ross hit, say, or an Elton John original?

"And it doesn't stop there. As a result of Marie LaSalle's cover version of 'Baby, I Love Your Way' ('I know I'm not supposed to like that song, but I do,' she says with a cheeky smile when she's finished), I find myself in two apparently contradictory states: a) I suddenly miss Laura with a passion that has been entirely absent for the last four days, and b) I fall in love with Marie LaSalle."

There's more - more entertaining, funny, and observational "bits" (as the British would say) - to "High Fidelity", which I leave to the readers of this review to discover for themselves. I invite all of you who are uninitiated to Nick Hornby's writing style and to "High Fidelity", in particular, to buy or borrow this novel. You'll be in for a fun and rewarding journey.

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text 2016-06-12 09:19
Reading progress update: I've read 105 out of 245 pages.
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

Rob after having spend a night with a woman, who has recently broken up with a fairly well-known American singer-songwriter:

 

"That´s amazing!"

"What, that you´ve slept with someone who´s slept with ..."

(Here she repeats the name of the fairly well-known American singer-songwriter, whom I shall hereafter refer to as Steve).

She´s right! Exactly that! Exactly that! I´ve slept with someone who´s slept with ... Steve! (That sentence sounds stupid without his real name in it. Like, I´ve danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with ... Bob. But just imagine the name of someone, not really famous, but quite famous - Lyle Lovett, say, although I should point out, for legal reasons, that it´s not him - and you´ll get the idea).

"Don´t be daft, Marie. I´m not that crass. I just meant, you know, it´s amazing that someone who wrote-" (and here I name Steve´s greatest hit, a drippy and revoltingly sensitive ballad) "should be such a bastard" I´m very pleased with this explanation for my amazement. Not only does it get me out of a hole, but it´s both sharp and relevant.

 

Yeah, I don´t know, Rob. You didn´t quite make it out of that "music nerd" corner. 

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review 2015-11-12 21:51
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

I’ve been picking fairly sedate books lately in the hope of not raising my adrenaline levels too high. Weird, right? If my blood pressure reaches 100 or above I may be in danger of being carted off in an ambulance. Just kidding. I’ve just been advised to keep it relaxed for a bit and apparently Nick Hornby’s a good choice for that sort of thing. High Fidelity was named as one of the top 100 books of all time by Amazon. It was right smack bang at the tail end of the list at number 100, and seeing as how that’s my lucky blood-pressure number, I took it as a sign.

 

So, in case you don’t know, High Fidelity is told from the perspective of Rob, a thirty-something year old music junkie. He spends the majority of his time with his employees at the record store he owns. He and his employees are obsessed with making top-five lists. When we meet him he’s listing his top-five break-ups of all time and thinking about his most current break-up (with Laura), which didn’t even make the list. From here on we’re immersed in Rob’s life and with his battle to stay young at heart. Young heart, get it? I’m not even making this stuff up.

 

What I really liked about this book (other than the fact it kept my blood-pressure at a cool 60) was the way the reader was pleasantly guided through what appeared to be no more than a man wishing to remain young, but in fact reached much deeper. Not to my heart, luckily. It combined humour and wit with a strong protagonist and never took itself too seriously even though it explored essentially what it means to be human.

 

Throughout the book Rob struggles to identify whether he’s destined to be with Laura. As he gets closer to working this out he finds out who and what he really wants and helps the reader do the same.

 

Told with skill and light-heartedness- I'm obsessed with hearts in case you hadn't noticed- this book has more substance than it cares to admit.

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text 2015-11-04 22:47
Reading progress update: I've read 65%.
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

I'm under strict guidelines not to read anything that'll spike my adrenaline, so hopefully now you get why I've been reading sedate books!

 

I'm liking it okay. Nothing earth-shattering *thank God squeals my heart* Fun though.

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