High Fidelity

“Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship.”

It seems that pretty much every book Nick Hornby writes has earned him a film contract, though the only one I’ve ever come in contact with is the Americanized Fever Pitch. High Fidelity is no exception, though I’m not sure how they managed to capture the introspective tone. To me it seemed part Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, part An Abundance of Katherines, and the rest full-fledged adulthood with all that entails.

Rob is a thirty-five year old record store owner whose live-in girlfriend of several years, Laura, has just left him to “find herself” with a neighbor. The breakup plunges him into a whirlpool of freedom and rejection. He begins a new relationship with recording artist Marie LaSalle, but also feels the need to reconnect with all the girls who have broken his heart in the past. Most importantly to himself, he turns once again to the pop songs that have guided him on the road to love, along with his buddies from the record store. In the end, however, Rob must decide whether he wants to continue floating aimlessly through live or seek out once more the things that ultimately ground him.

The book isn’t graphic but it’s definitely very frank about all aspects of a relationship, more so than is my usual taste. On the other hand it also has substance and insight. High Fidelity is a very honest look at a man’s struggles with insecurity and stagnancy in both relationships and life, a far cry from the sugar-coated romance à la Nicholas Sparks. (Don’t get me wrong, The Notebook makes me cry every time but I certainly wouldn’t call it realistic.)

A lot of the time Rob comes across as desperate, needy, or dumb, so that if I was another character I might have disliked him but instead you just feel kind of sorry for him and hope at some point he’ll pull his life together.To be fair, this is because we only see him in a time of selfish crisis. Also, for most of the book I wasn’t even sure if I wanted Laura and Rob to get back together, except for the fact that it seemed to have worked for so long. But that’s the point that Hornby seems to be trying to make. Love isn’t the conflagration of passion and feeling that pop songs make it out to be. Instead it means sticking together when times are tough, becoming so connected to each other’s lives that it’s easier to be together than apart. It’s not the most romantic picture, but it some ways it also makes sense.

Thanks to my dad and brothers I have a pretty fair knowledge of “classic” pop and rock and was able to get most of the references. A deep understanding isn’t necessary, however, as the main focus is Rob’s personal connection with music. In many ways it’s similar to a bibliophile’s appreciation of books: Make lists of favorites for fun? Check. Recall particular works to fit a specific mood? Check. Reorganize the record collection when stressed? Switching around shelves always makes me smile. Even the lesson is the same, as life is certainly not a romance novel. But are books fun nevertheless? You betcha!

This books is from the Comedy portion of the list for the Guardian Challenge.

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Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 4:32 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby (comedy) […]


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