Saturday, 25 October 2008

High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

I loved this book so much, I giggled all my way through it. I had seen the film but it was enough time ago not to see the differences and make too many comparisons. This was pure pleasure reading.
It's not really a story. It's more a window into the mind of a 30 something guy, Rob, who is not ready to be an adult yet, but feels like his life is slipping away from him. The trigger to everything is his girlfriend Laura breaking up with him. He starts remembering his past top five break-ups, in chronological order, and try to find an answer to his current situation. My favourite of his break up is probably the first one, with Alison Ashworth. They were only twelve or thirteen and their relationship, based on snogging in the park, lasted only three days:

What did I think I was doing? What did she think she was doing? When I want to kiss people in that way now, with mouths and tongues and all that, it's because I want other things too: sex, Friday nights at the cinema, company and conversation, fused networks of family and friends, Lemsips brought to me in bed when I am ill, a new pair of ears for my records and CDs, maybe a little boy called Jack and a little girl called Holly or Maisie, I haven't decided yet. But I didn't want any of those things from Alison Ashworth. Not children because we were children, and not Friday nights at the pictures, because we went Saturday mornings, and not Lemsips, because my mum did that, not even sex, especially not sex, please God not sex, the filthiest and most terrifying invention of the early seventies.

At page 4 I was in love with the book already. Not that I sympathize with the guy at all. But it was fun to read into his mind. It felt so real sometimes I had to remind myself that this was not a memoir but fiction. He made me laugh a lot, but I couldn't help to be annoyed sometimes, because I could put myself into all his girls' position and totally see their point of view!
Poor Penny Hardwick who was dumped because she wouldn't let be touched, but was secretly mad for him. She only needed more tenderness.
And what about his pining for Laura? It's all a matter of ego:
I'm unhappy because she doesn't want me; If I can convince myself that she does want me a bit, then I'll be OK again, because then I won't want her, and I can get on with looking for someone else.


But despite all this, he is irresistible. The writing is irresistible, his snobbish obsession with music is irresistible. His friends and employees, Dick and Barry, are irresistible. The whole package.
Of course Nick Hornby knows his Rob is a bit of a tosser, but it's probably why he feels like a real person who's trying to analyse the reasons why he manages to mess up his love life all the time.
Some of the most insightful conclusions about Life come from Rob's relationship with music:
What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person? People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. 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."

Some other conclusions, like the one about unrealistic expectations that pop music puts into young impressionable minds, I think are due to Rob not having found real love yet, otherwise he'd know what those romantic songs talk about:)
But I should stop arguing with him as if he was a real person! I wish he was, so I could have a proper chat with him about some stuff :p

So, to put an end to this messy review...You should read this book. Even if you are not a music nerd, or 30 something, or a man. You're in for a brilliant read.

other blog reviews:
Books I done read
Where lemon melt like lemon drops
Trish's reading nook
Know any more? Please let me know!


mariel said...

I was a little wary of reading this at first, as I really love the film, and was worried that my impression of the book (or the film) would be tainted by the other. But for perhaps the first time, I have discovered that I really enjoy both book and film. They are different in ways, being set in very different cities, but the bulk of the story is the same and I love that much of the dialogue in the film is taken straight from the book. This was the first of Hornby's novels that I read, and in all honesty, the only one that actually interested me, and I really enjoyed it, no more or less than the film. But then John Cusack is one of my favourite actors, so that's probably to be expected! I'm glad you liked it, and highly recommended watching the film again.

My review is at the link below.

Trish said...

So glad you liked this one! I found the narrative to be very convincing most of the time, but sometimes I had trouble reconciling that the book was actually written by a male. I guess because of my own stereotypes there were some things that I didn't quite believe (I wrote about this a little in my blog). Anyway, the movie is fantastic as well--John Cusack hits Rob head on.

Nymeth said...

"I could put myself into all his girls' position and totally see their point of view!"

lol, I know what you mean. But I got the feeling that deep down he knew he was being whiny and unfair and that the girls weren't really the ones to blame. Anyway, I love this book too, and I'm very glad you enjoyed it so much.

PS: You're reading Nation! :D Can't wait to see what you think.

valentina said...

Mariel, I enjoyed the film but it's not my kind. I'm a bit fussy about films that talk too much. I mean with off screen narrators..I like the images to tell the stories but usually with films made out of books the narrators voice is always very present and I don't like it.
thanks for your link!

Trish, it's funny the way we both found some things to argue about the male perspective! i agree with you about that passage...disrespect? tsz!

Nymeth, I think so too, that's why i didn't throw the book to the wall,but I actually really really liked it! it's going to be one the books I will buy for my friends for Christmas this year.

Yes, Nation! I'm only at the beginning, I've no idea what to expect, but it's promising. I'm only getting into the story now...