High Fidelity is about Rob Fleming, a guy in his mid-thirties who owns and operates a vinyl record store called Championship Vinyl for a living. He likes listing top fives of just about anything: recording artists, albums, films, dance music, anything. He has just broken up with his girlfriend, Laura – rather, Laura has just broken up with him, on account of which he decides to list down his top five most memorable split-ups, remembering the girl, the relationship, and the break-up. What follow after that are pathetic attempts to get Laura back, unexceptional efforts to keep the record store running, and a juvenile, cringe-worthy endeavor to understand why he keeps getting dumped: by getting in touch with the women who make up his top five most memorable split-ups.
No, he’s not very likeable, Rob. Laura was pretty much justified when she dumped him. At his age, he ought to have been set with his priorities, been more or less settled with his life and comfortable in his own skin. Put simply, he ought to have already been established at that stage in his life. Unfortunately, he is immature, insecure, and confused. How else would he be expected to live a decent life not only for himself, but with a partner?
But for all the times I got so pissed off at Rob – you have to know what he did to Laura to make her dump him – he was not without a redeeming factor. Even when he couldn’t have been faithful to Laura, he was a guy who did not steal – he would never have agreed to buy cheap a record considered as collector’s item, even if the seller had been willing to accept it. Rob also wanted to see his friends happy, knowing that they deserved it (case in point: Dick) – and he was equally an asshole to anyone who acted like an asshole (case in point: Barry).
High Fidelity is about relationships, really. Rob had a lot of them – mostly failures – and he flails trying to come to terms with the fact of each failure. I appreciate that it speaks of the reality that relationships take a lot of work, that they’re not always a bed of roses, and that people deal with these reality checks the way they can, the way they’re built. Rob had a long way to go in terms of keeping a relationship, and he needed to deal with his own inadequacies before he can even start. How did he come to that point in his life when he has practically accomplished nothing? It was his life, his decisions, and consequently, his mistakes; it was unfair to drag the exes into the mess of a life that he has made for himself.
But he was a lonely man. Which came first, the music or the misery? Music played a starring role in this book, which I also appreciated. And while some of the names and songs mentioned in it did not ring a bell, I relate with music being able to affect the characters, to the point of impelling them to make life-altering decisions.
High Fidelity reads easily. I had no trouble finishing the book in just a few days’ time. This is my first time to read Nick Hornby, and despite the more-often-than-not-annoying lead character, I found that I liked his wry, sardonic humor. This book was honest, no-frills, and straightforward. So, in honor of Rob who likes his top five lists, here are my Top Five favorite quotes from the book:
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.
I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.
It’s not a case of the glass being half-full or half-empty; more that we tipped a whole half-pint into an empty pint pot. I had to see how much was there, though, and now I know.
You have to work at relationships. You can’t just walk out on them every time something goes wrong.
… he’s worried about how his life is turning out, and he’s lonely, and lonely people are the bitterest of them all.
Book Details: Trade paperback, brand-new from Book Depository
Read in March 2015