After THE LOSERS' CLUB: Complete Restored Edition, this is my favorite "guy" novel. It's an accurate portrayal of a guy's interior life, maybe the best depiction of male psychology and their uneasy relationship with opposite sex I've ever read. Plus, it's really funny!
The protagonist is just breaking up with his girlfriend; she's leaving him and this makes him recall all his past relationships, his past "failures" in trying to access the damage Laura, his new "ex," has done -- and how she stacks up compared to other gals who have broken his heart. This is first of the lists, Rob shares with us; the top 5 five list is a theme carried throughout the entire novel.
The protagonist is a used record shop owner, a modest business that is failing; Rob knows he should move on, but to what? His ex meanwhile is a lawyer, earning a great living. And that of course only underscores his feeling of "being left behind," or being some kind of protracted adolescent.
I love this book because I really related to the main character; we live in a materialistic age where at a certain point you start to feel foolish if you haven't established a "career." Rob's a passionate guy, passionate about music -- not a dullard, and yet he remains the way he always was, without much career ambition, content to indulge his passions. To me, he seems decent, pretty cool -- the type of guy you'd like to have as a pal. To women, no doubt, he's just a "loser."
There's a huge market of books for women, books that depict women's relationships and their needs, etc. -- this is one book that gives the male point of view.
It shows how frail men are, I think. Early on, Rob talks about "Charlie" an arty girl who he was insanely in love with and who dumped (and essentially crippled) him. I know guys like this, who after being dumped 10 years earlier still find themselves unable to deal with it. Because men are less able to access and deal with their feelings, certain feelings remain frozen inside them for years, paralysis of this kind is common. Women are just more emotionally resilient, I think.
In many ways, HIGH FIDELITY is a "guy" romantic comedy, a book about relationships after the age of 30, a book about societal expectations for men, a book about "recovery" from damaging relationships. Along the way it gives great insight into how guys think, male paranoia ("Is he better than me? [i.e. Bigger?]"), male insecurity and fear and sadness. Also the tendency of men to be a little narrow-minded (overly focused [ie, the top 5 lists]) at times, even misanthropic. At his age, Rob doesn't have many male friends, except for the two guys who help out at his record shop; other past friends, no doubt, have moved on, gotten married, formed families -- we (or at least I) can relate to the feeling of being "left behind." I think we all feel a little like Rob.
At first the book seems a little bitter, because the Rob is terribly wounded -- that's the tone of book: he's hurting. But as the novel continues, the book lightens up a bit and remains a truly enjoying reading experience. And I've read it more than once! Anyway, check out this book! And also read "THE LOSER'S CLUB: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez -- another great "guy" book that in many ways is related to HIGH FIDELITY. Just excellent!