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High Fidelity Paperback – 5 Oct 2000
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It has been said often enough that baby boomers are a television generation, but High Fidelity reminds that in a way they are the record-album generation as well. This hilarious novel is obsessed with music; Hornby's narrator is an early thirtysomething bloke who runs a London record store. He sells albums recorded the old-fashioned way--on vinyl--and is having a tough time making other transitions as well, specifically to adulthood. The book is in one sense a love story, both sweet and interesting; most entertaining, though, are the hilarious arguments over arcane matters of pop music. --Christine Buttery
Nick Hornby's first novel, an international bestseller and instantly recognized by critics and readers alike as a classic, helps to explain men to women, and men to men. Rob is good on music: he owns a small record shop and has strong views on what's decent and what isn't. But he's much less good on relationships. In fact, he's not at all sure that he wants to commit himself to anyone. So it's hardly surprising that his girlfriend decides that enough is enough.See all Product description
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Perhaps this novel has become its own cliché over the last twenty-two years, but I found it still to be enjoyable and thought-provoking. I suppose this is the archetypal “lad-lit” novel, yet it should appeal to both genders.
Part of me would like to see a reprise with the protagonist (Rob) now approaching his sixties. But that would be to miss the point of the well-crafted ending. Also, there’s probably less of a market for “ageing-git lit”, and Richard Ford, for example, has that buttoned down already with his enjoyable Frank Bascombe novels.
My Kindle version has a dozen or so typos (mainly missing quotation marks at the start or end of passages of dialogue), but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment.
My current copy came from a charity shop and has a small sticker on the back saying "50p - Good", obviously intended as a comment on the physical condition of the book, but which I mistakenly took to be a critical review. I still recall my embarrassment on marching to the desk demanding to know why it didn't say "excellent"!
The blurb inside the front cover starts with a quote from the Guardian: "The most frequent response to High Fidelity is `Oh God, I know people just like that'..." Well it's true; I do - me. Whenever I re-read the novel, which has been every couple of years, I find myself wincing with painful self-recognition. Right down to the obsessive list making (each new diary of mine used to start with a list of my top ten albums, novels and movies so that I could compare the lists back to previous years).
Hornby is such an astute writer, with a real gift for comedy. If you regard "Fever Pitch" as a memoir then amazingly "High Fidelity" is his debut novel and it is astonishing. I know all the jokes yet still find myself reading with an inane grin on my face, when I'm not laughing uncontrollably - not a book to read on a quiet train. In Rob Fleming he has created a totally believable and fatally flawed human being, and I still find myself rooting for him from the bottom of my heart.
Hornby's authorial voice is conversational with an immediacy that makes you feel as though he had written a confessional just for you alone. His dialogue is an object lesson in authenticity for any aspiring writer; effortlessly fluent and compulsively readable. It certainly makes its way into my list of my top five favourite novels, year on year.
Throughout we are also treated to Rob's musical preferences and are informed as to his emotional state, as well as his personality, through the music he recommends, either in one of his "top 5's" or when something is noted in passing. We all know that certain songs make us feel a certain way, and as a compulsive list-maker I felt myself pausing whenever I came across a "top 5" and making my own in my head. This book was almost interactive for me.
This is modern literature at its finest.