Nick Hornby gives music and romance a philosophical spin in "High Fidelity," the funny, rueful book about men, music, and modern love. While occasionally his lead character's "top five" lists can be a little annoying, this is a charmingly original, wry and thoughtful novel - an offbeat romance for our time.
Rob owns a little music shop in London, which is a good thing because he is musically obsessed -- pop music, he claims, makes him fall in love. But even pop music can't heal his heart when his longtime girlfriend Laura breaks up and moves out. What's worse, Rob has no idea WHY she broke up with him, and he feels mixed feelings about losing her (he cares about her) and her musical tastes (bad).
He immerses himself in his rickety business with his weirdo employees -- these guys alone are worth checking out the book for. He dates a folk singer. He learns that Laura is now involved with the repulsive guy upstairs. And finally, he assesses his past sex life and romances (the top five, specifically), getting a bit of insight into what Laura's problem with him might be: He's stuck in his mid-teens.
Thirty-five is kind of old to start growing up. But like many real people, Rob learns that it's change or die -- in his case, alone and surrounded by records. "High Fidelity" is a nice blend of musical/movie memoir, love story and belated-coming-of-age tale. It's kind of geeky and pokes fun at itself, but therein lies its charm.
Hornby writes a nice, breezy kind of prose, peppered with plenty of pop culture and musical references. Not to mention the top five lists: Top Five Episodes of Cheers. Best Side One Track Ones Of All Time. Top Five Bands or Musicians Who Will Have To Be Shot Come the Musical Revolution. At times the pop culture name-dropping gets a bit tiresome, but it mostly underlines how quirky and mildly obsessive Rob can be.
And oh, he can be quirky. He can also be a self-centered jerk, and a bit confused and clueless to boot. Hornby's alter ego is likable for his flaws, and somehow manages to shed a little light on how men think. Good backup comes in his clerks Barry and Dick, who are just as geekily eccentric about music and lists as Rob is.
Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" is an excellent slice of Brit-lit -- it's quirky, wry, insightful, and a bit obsessed with good music. Definitely a must-read.
on May 2, 2001
Two things I must say before I jump into my top five, a) I saw the movie, "High Fidelity" first, b) the real rating is 4.5. Let's continue: Top Five things that I liked about this book: 1. I enjoyed the witty commentary and style of the novel. It felt as if Rob Fleming was telling me the secrets of his life, opinions, etc. It was like a modern, non-three day "Catcher in the Rhye." 2. The fact that every comment and opinion and statement about life, love, relationships, etc. I could relate to. It was like one of those "Did you ever notice?" comedians where after every joke you're in absiolute agreement with the stan-up. 3. The characters. Like most readers I enjoy good charcaters. Not interesting charcaters who do amazing or different things, but charcaters that you can relate to, feel for, and almost tak the place of, so to speak, during parts of the film, novel, series, etc. 4. Everybody's favorite- the obbsessive, intelligent conversations between Rob, Barry, Dick (Sorry, jumping ahead, they're all characters that you'll recognize when you read the book). It was funny to hear how music obbsessed some people could be. It made you feel almost envious of their extensive knowledge about music, film, and novels. 5. The "tie-it-together ending." The ending wasn't spectacular, and it probably should have been seven or eight, but it felt very soothing, and completeing, like the how the song played on the credits of a movie can in some way make the film more enjoyable, because it sets a mood or whatever. I'm not going o ruin anything, but I guarantee a smile of approval and happiness after reading the last chapter or so.
"High Fidelity" was a funny, witty, novel that at some points dragged, but at most points was gratifying. I rarely do this, but I'm going to have to say it: this book I guarentee you will enjoy, even for a brief few chapters, but for most people, the entire novel is enjoyable. Good Luck with it!
on March 18, 2006
"High Fidelity" is Nick Hornby's first novel and was first published in 1995. It was later adapted for the big screen and starred John Cusak, Jack Black and Lisa Bonet. (The film was set in Chicago, though, rather than London).
The story is told by Rob Fleming, the thirty-something owner of a record shop called "Championship Vinyl". The shop, he claims, specialises in catering for the 'serious' record collector - unfortunately, if sales are anything to go by, there aren't too many serious record collectors left. He is a bit of a trainspotter when it comes to music and his own record collection - which he tends to reorganise in times of emotional stress. His staff consists of the somewhat obnoxious Barry and the slightly nerdy Dick (one of the book's more likeable characters). Barry thinks and talks largely in lists - his top five Dustin Hoffman movies or the top ten albums made by blind musicians, for example - and it's a trait that Rob seems to have picked up to a degree. As the book opens, Rob has just been dumped by his girlfriend and he begins with his top five dumpings. (Rob has always, it seems, been the dumpee, rather than the dumper). Laura, the girlfriend who provided him with his most recent dumping, doesn't make the list.
The book sees Rob trying to work through his post-dumping traumas. He knows he hasn't been innocent and blameless, but that doesn't make the split any easier to deal with. The highs and lows include Marie LaSalle (an American folk-country singer on a small independent label and the focus of a post-breakup crush) and a phone call from one of Laura's friends, who mentions that she doesn't think much of 'this Ian guy'. Unfortunately, Rob hadn't known anything about 'this Ian guy'. It's something that sends him into a horrible 'what-does-it-all-mean' routine that sees him attempting to contact the five women on his top five dumping list.
One of the professional reviewers that sometimes gets blurbed - Elizabeth Young, from the Guardian - mentioned that "the most frequent response to High Fidelity is `Oh God, I know people just like that!'." She's not too far off the mark - at times (though thankfully, not all the time) the person I knew who was just like that...was me. While it may make you squirm at times, it is also a very funny book and is absolutely recommended.
on June 4, 2002
Read the book because it is insightful regarding relationships from the male perspective,because it gives a glimpse into the mind of a fanatic collector(music or other), or because it's doggone entertaining. But read the damn book. The protagonist decides to examine his life after, as is often the case, a painful episode in his life. Normally this type of book is a turn off to most men, but this book is so funny, and so dead on accurate that you don't mind taking the trip through Rob's(the protagonist) psyche.
The humor comes in many forms. Rob's co-workers provide some hefty laughs with their top 5 lists, sarcasm and realistic portrayal of music geeks. Rob himself supplies many laffs with his self effacement and irony. And the turns the story takes itself are sometimes hilarious, sometimes just strange.( Wait til you find out what happens at the funeral of Rob's ex's father)
The poignancy and depth of the book sneaks up on ya. One minute your chuckling over Rob's frustration with fans of Phil Collins, the next your sharing in a truthful,sometimes almost brutally so, insight into his mind.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that any book that can take a self -obsessed guy's ruminating on music,relationships and life in general, and keep me interested because of the humor and truthfulness of the inner and outer dialogues, is a damn fine book. Try it. It makes soul searching fun!!!
on January 12, 2002
I saw the movie before I read this book, and I liked the movie version, but it was sort of hard to figure out whether I liked the movie for itself, or because of the cool feeling that went along with knowing the chicago neighborhoods and landmarks shown throughout the film. In any case, I liked the film enough to go out and try to find the book. Now, I usually don't like both reading the book and seeing the movie, but in this case I'm glad I did. This book was a lot of fun to read. Guys, read this book, because its a rare male perspective on things that seem like they're always written about by women. You'll find yourself completely understanding how Rob thinks and acts, seeing shades of yourself, and maybe even get some perspective on how our typical guy behavior appears to outsiders. Females, read this book just to get some insight into the world of the guy mind, a place governed by its own separate set of logical rules and axioms, that make complete sense and are valid to themselves, but sometimes with no real connection to the external world. Maybe you'll be able to figure out some of your crazy boyfriends. And thats as good a reason to read a book as any.
on December 24, 2001
Nick Hornby's comic romp about a pathetic thirty-something incapable of love starts strongly, but inevitably falls into the predictable pit of direct-to-Hollywood fiction. Rob, anti-hero, slacker, hero to his fellow thirty-somethings, lives what he does, listening to music. He and his two part-time full-time co-workers don't really work, they sit around talking about music, listing their favorite and most-hated songs. After work, Rob whines about Laura, who has left him for the guy upstairs, and hooks up with other women while he waits for her to come to her senses.
Rob is at his best as the unrepentant male. His world circles around him, as our worlds circle around us. He's selfish and small: a real guy. He continually lists his life's efforts and failures, categorizing them like records in his collection. Shades of his honorable self shine through. I kept wanting to tell him to keep his head down, he'll get through it, but eventually he falls into the maw of predictability and is on his way to a future of diaper bags and car pools.
The first two-thirds of HIGH FIDELITY are an anthem for anyone born in the sixties. The last third, anathema to anyone who hoped for something different.
on September 24, 2001
For those of us in our 30s, it is an often trying period if you find yourself not married and/or not without a family of your own. Contemporary literature and the movies have certainly given audiences plenty of tales of women during this time of alleged life "crisis." Thankfully, we have Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" to give us some rare insight into a man's mind. While reading this novel, one can not help think that *any* guy reading this book could not help but have a smile of recognition come across his face. Through the eyes of record store owner Rob Fleming, readers get a comic look at how one man deals with life, love, and relationships when his long-time live-in girlfriend, Laura, leaves him for another man.
Some readers will be frustrated that Rob seems to be not nearly as passionate towards his girlfriend as he is with music and his record shop. But again, this is arguably an undeniable male trait (and I am sure infuriating, in the eyes of many women) when it comes to relationships. Rob's music and record shop could easily be substituted for sports or cars for another guy. I am not sure if Rob makes the "right" relationship issue in the end, but as with all good literature, it is a good sign when an author engages us in such an internal debate. A warning to those who may have seen or are familiar with the movie version starring John Cusack, Hollywood moved the novel's locale from London to Chicago. The book definitely has British wit and slang. Nevertheless, "High Fidelity" is an enjoyable read that both sexes should enjoy.
on September 23, 2001
I would give this book five stars except for three things: first, the book is slow in the beginning, second, I don't think that Hornby says anything particularly original or goes as deep as he could have in terms of the analysis of men in the nineties and the whole male-female relationships, and third, the music as metaphor for life thing didn't work as well for me as it might have for others because like Laura I hadn't heard of half the musicians mentioned.
That said, overall I liked the novel. I loved that the chapters were short, so if I didn't have time to sit and read for a long period, I could still read some (I'm one of those people who doesn't like to leave a book part way through a chapter). Even though I'm a woman I could relate to Rob; my obsession is books and movies. Rob is a commitmentphobic man who keeps messing up his relationship because he's afraid to grow up. He thinks he's going to miss something if he doesn't keep his options open, so he ends at 36 with nothing much to show for his life. I found myself wanting to strangle Rob, yet liking him in spite of myself, probably because I know so many guys - and women, actually - like him. The book doesn't have alot of amazing new insights, but the characters are fun, the pace is great, and there is so much I could relate to, even as a woman. I laughed and cried and wanted to scream at Rob at times. Must also say I hated the movie - in the movie I didn't buy the Rob/Laura reconciliation, but in the book it makes more sense. I reccommend this book to anyone in their 20s or 30s who are trying to figure out what it's all about, to music fans, and anyone who loves a good laugh.
on September 14, 2001
I'll have to admit that I found 'High Fidelity' boring and without nerve at first. But anyway I kept on reading because - well what the heck, I had bought the book in an airport to keep me busy on the plane so my demands weren't exactly high.
And then a funny thing happened. I seemed to be more and more moved and excited by the novel. And before long I was caught. I simply could not put down the book until the last page had been flipped.
'High Fidelity' is very down to Earth and realistic (which is characteristic for all of Hornby's novels and short stories). And maybe that's why the book can seem boring and without nerve at first. But the boringness is really what makes the book exciting! Although this seems weird, I have a perfectly good explanation for it. Usually novels are filled with high-flying drama and are not that realistic. At least not for all of us (a novel like American Psycho is of course realistic for a few serial killers but for the rest of us it's really far out). But in 'High Fidelity' we all, or most of us at least, can relate to one of the main characters and say: "this could might as well have been me". That is the really intriguing part of 'High Fidelity'.
And for anyone who likes classic rock 'High Fidelity' is a must. The book is packed with little anecdotes and stories that will only be recognized by those with quite some knowledge of classic rock.
If you think life itself is interesting then go get 'High Fidelity'. If you, on the other hand, like to get away from everyday life then stay out of the way from this book. You'll might get a serious depression out of it.
on December 5, 2000
I heard the hype and fought it for a long time; I caved in and read the book this past week. I was pleasantly surprised. I expected a graphic and gratuitous romp through the eagle-eye of some stereotypical male... I didn't get that.
What suprised me most was that I sided with the protagonist, one Rob Zimmerman, as he swam his way through the dark waters of relationships, even when he was overlapping them. This is an intelligent and intuitive book, and Hornby should be proud of the work. It's original, it's entertaining, and it even makes the reader give pause and think hard about some of the issues he raises through his characters.
While I didn't find it laugh-out-loud funny, I did find the observations and conclusions humorous - something to be savoured and rolled around a bit before swallowing. I know a number of 'Robs'... have 'em in my family, and sometimes I think I have this bloke in my husband. The man's ambiguity and duplicity (especially when it comes to initially fancying women) is a true-to-form trait for maleness.
The best part of the book is the last major segment: when dawn breaks and realization forms, and the character appropriately steps into the more meaningful, deeper, and difficult. Like he says, 'I realize that what one likes and what one *is* like are two very different things.' (I paraphrase, of course.)
For those that want to explore the 'New Lads' writerly set, Hornby's a great place to start. You'll enjoy the romp through one normal guy's crazy life experiences.