Originally published in 1995, Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity was on my reading list for quite sometime before I got around to actually reading it. I had heard great things about this book and had enjoyed screen adaptations of one of Hornby’s other works (About A Boy), so when I received the book for my birthday this past year, I was excited to dive in.
High Fidelity follows music junkie Rob Fleming as he essentially has an early-mid-life crisis in mid 90s London: he owns a failing record shop and his girlfriend has left him for a guy that lives in the apartment above him.
I’ll have to admit that from the moment I first began reading I wasn’t sure about how I’d feel about this one: The novel begins with Rob listing his top five most memorable split-ups during his lifetime and how each of those breakups has negatively affected his life.
At this point, less than 40 pages into the novel mind you, I was already completely not intrigued by this self-pitying narrator, a guy who lists how hurt he was after a girl wouldn’t let him touch her within three months but let her next boyfriend do so after less than a week.
Needless to say, I was disgusted by Rob’s character early in my reading. As the novel continues, Hornby has some occasional witty dialogue between Rob and his store clerks, Dick and Barry, but I still couldn’t help but envision these three men as burnouts who would probably use the #notallmen hashtag on Twitter.
Obsessed with top five lists and a desire to only talk about how much obscure b-sides from unknown bands were better than pop music, Rob, Dick, and Barry, didn’t do much more than that.
After his girlfriend Laura leaves him for the guy upstairs, all Rob can do is obsess over whether or not Laura’s new guy is better in bed than him. (Seriously, that is one of this guy’s main concerns.) By this point, I was really annoyed with his character, so I took to the internet to see what other reviewers had said about the book.
Most of the reviews I had read were written by guys who seemed to enjoy the book; maybe this was just one of those books that couldn’t appeal to women; I continued reading nonetheless.
As the novel nears its end, Rob comes to terms with his whiny, self-absorbed nature and eventually kind of pulls it together after he realizes that fear of commitment has been holding him back (who would’ve thought).
There’s an awkward scene or two at the end and some quotes that I bet made it into the screen adaptation of this story starring John Cusack.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel’s moments of witty dialogue that I got a glimpse of in the screen adaptations of Hornby’s other works, but I think I disliked the main character enough that I couldn’t become as interested in this book as I wanted to be.
For me there was a disconnect between the humor I loved and this self-pitying character I hated, but maybe that was the point and maybe there is more humor in there than I was getting.
Rating: 2.5/5 stars