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Love, men and music
on February 24, 2007
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.