on 12 November 2006
Someone else mentioned that the first 32 pages alone were worth the price of the book -- and that reviewer is correct! This novel starts off beautifully: the tone of the narrator is wounded, possibly because he's reeling and in shock from the recent departure of his girlfriend, Laura. What we have is the narrator trying to come to grips with the situation, tabulate how truly hurt he is, weighing this "dumping" to former dumpings by past girlfriends, starting from the first girl he ever kissed.
I just love the tone; the guy is really hurting (and we've all been there). It's this tone I think that gives such clarity to his confessional. Anyway, following this "resume of relationship trauma," we follow as the narrator goes on to deal with his life and disappointments. As a record shop owner, he's considered an "underachiever," a loser by some. His ex is a lawyer, hence the dilemma. (The double standard is that a man can be a lawyer and have a girlfriend with a simple job and everything's fine; BUT if the woman partner is the lawyer -- then HE should at least be equally as "successful"?! Well, this smacks of reality. In the eyes of society, he needs to "grow up." Many of us reading it will feel differently, perhaps.) This book is really an accurate portrayal of the male psyche, and it delves into many of the anxieties and fears that men suffer. But Hornby knows how to mix humor with the moments of soul-searching, so it doesn't become a drag. In the end, this book is really a great romantic comedy. Certainly, one of the most honest, insightful, and funniest accounts of guy/gal relationships I've come across since reading The Losers Club by Richard Perez. Definitely don't hesitate to pick up a copy!
on 6 May 2002
I started to read this book with a little scepticism, thinking that it was just going to drone on and on, but after the first couple of pages I was hooked. It tells the story of Rob, whose latest girlfriend has just left him and he is trying to figure out just where he's going wrong, as she's only the last in a fairly long line-up of relationship failures. The story is told by Rob himself and (being a woman myself) he obviously does so from a man's point of view. If ever I thought I'd never be able to understand men, this book brings me a lot closer to achieving that objective! The narrative often had me laughing out loud, recognising the (funny and often childish) traits so puzzlingly obvious in many of my male friends and partners! Having a knowledge of music and artistes greatly enhances enjoyment of this book, as the mention of forgotten favourites whisks you back in time, just as it does to Rob when he hears them. A brilliant read! Men, I understand you a little better, thanks to 'High Fidelity'!
on 23 December 1999
Nick Hornby's HIGH FIDELITY opens with a list that most teenage males and men have made variations of in their own lives: their five most memorable break-ups. Before we even know where this list is going to lead, we know protagonist Rob Fleming is going to be a guy after many of our hearts. He is the kind of guy that pays extremely close attention to his relationships with women, is always looking for that "perfect" girlfriend (in the sense of perfect for him), and if pressed just a bit, could readily produce the names of every girl that ever deigned to kiss him romantically on the lips. Not that this is a good thing, but it's just something we can do, kind of like being able to rattle off the last ten NCAA basketball champions. Self-obsessed? Sure. Identifiable? Like the sun in the sky.
Rob is a 35-year-old North London record shop owner who never recovered from the toughest of those five break-ups--the one that stunned him right out of college. He knows his chosen musical genres obsessively, but no longer quite as obsessively as his employees, the overbearing Barry and timid Dick. The shop and his music, however, seem to make up Rob's whole world, and he is not comfortable outside them. Nor is he happy with himself outside of a monogamous relationship. So why (consciously or not) does he always sabotage them? Following Rob as he seeks the answer to this question can be hilarious and sad and rejuvenating.
Hornby's prose is consistently keen of wit and often raucously funny. Because there's just so much literature out there I want to experience, I almost never re-read books. I read HIGH FIDELITY twice in six weeks--Nick Hornby taught me how silly I was.
on 24 January 2002
High Fidelity shows the reader as much about the male perspective as Briget Jones did for the female. This is not to say that there are men who are exactly like Rob in the novel, but there are a great many who obviously share at least one of his characteristics.
The title in itself tells the reader what to expect from the novel. 'Hi fidelity' - a term used in music and also as a way to indicate his 'fidelity' to Laura and how, even when the possibility of a continuing relationship looks dim, they will always come back to each other.
Described like this 'High Fidelity' may seem an impenetrable mish-mash of social/gender/romantic commentary, but the dry wit and the 'reality' of the characters - especially Barry and Dick - make this book laugh out loud funny and perhaps at some stages tears rolling down cheeks funny. The character of Rob is sometimes too realistic. More than once a burning desire is felt to pick him up by the scruff of his leather jacket and try to remove by force the immense chip on his shoulder. But this only serves to show how good Hornby is at presenting his characters. Just as you want to shout at Bridget Jones, so you want to shout at Rob Flemming, and tell him exactly what your all-time top-5 novels are. This one would certainly be up there with the greats.
"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 18 February 2014
High Fidelity was semi-entertaining all the way through; the prose was humorous without trying too hard (same goes for the dialogue); and the plot--not that there is much of a plot--kept me interested until the end. The book had a few funny parts, too, plus some cute one-liners every now and then, and in general was a good read. It's not an amazing book or one I'd run around recommending, but it wasn't bad--or, worse, boring.
It's the story of (some guy, I forget his name), who owns a failing record shop, and has just split up with his girlfriend and is now dealing with real life--or something. I can't really remember. I read it a few weeks ago and only started writing this now. I think the main character was having a mid-life crisis or something. He becomes obsessed with winning back his ex, even though he cheated on her when she was pregnant, and even though he probably doesn't love her that much anyway. Or maybe he does. Maybe that's real love, at least in this author's world.
And that's the part that bugged me about this book: the reality aspect. That might sound dumb, but it bugged me that the main character was so real, so completely arrogant and shallow and useless. He was a d***; a likeable d***, but still a d***. And it irritated me that the love story was without any real romance or fanfare or climax. The book showed the mundane, predictable routine of life and relationships. It showed the boring, unromantic side of love; the smelly breath, pyjamas and unshaved legs of love. I hated that. I like conceptualised love. I like to read fake fantasy love -- maybe because I distrust and hate actual love in real life (the pain, torture and unhappiness of it all), which I guess made me relate to the main character, but I didn't want to like him or empathise or understand him, although on some level I guess I did. I read fiction to escape that side of life, not be dragged right back into it. Then again--it was good, it was different.
It makes a change, I suppose.
I'm not even sure what my opinion is now.
Either way, this is readable but nothing groundbreaking.
on 18 April 1999
Having attended a conference on post-modernism (*yawn*) centred around Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" (I was unprepared, having not read it) I studiously avoided it for over a year because it was "fashionable" - probably the worst thing any writer can have said about their work.
When I finally bought the book and read it I was astounded. A truly, truly marvellous piece of work. I could identify with just about every line, despite the fact that the musical references went mostly (if not completely) over my head.
Rob's obsession with Laura whilst they are apart and his "wandering" feelings when they are together capture, for me, the essence of relationships. You only want what you had when you don't have it any more.
Some people above have commented on their impression of a lack of depth to the characters. The sad truth is that most of us are not wonderfully well-rounded individuals with experience in many varied fields of life. Many of us are just obsessed with music, or computer games or Jerry Springer talk shows. I think that Hornby has captured a truth of our society in High Fidelity.
In summary, it's wonderful. The relationships are described in a "real-life" way as are the characters. Read it, you won't be disappointed.
on 5 March 2001
A tiny record shop located in the suburbs of London is the place in which Rob, the main character of the book, spends his days with his two employees: the shy Dick and the peevish Barry.
They share an obsessive passion for music and an unaccustomed and superficial way of communicating by classifying anything that comes up in their lives in top-five lists. But Rob's life messes up when his long-time girlfriend Laura broke with him because of his immaturity and unreliability, making him feel miserable even he didn't know exactly his feelings for her. He realizes he has an unsatisfactory professional and personal life, so he starts to examine his behaviour in-depth trying "to sort himself out"
It's an ironic and thought-provoking analysis of a frustrated man prey to 1.000 questions and to his am biguous and illogical reasoning concerning his unlucky relationship with the opposite sex. He is, in fact, self-aware that he is incapable of control: "I f eel like a pillock, but I couldn't stop myself. I never can "
By using a straightforward and colloquial style, the author establishes a direct relation with the reader and succeeds in revealing the most hidden fears and thoughts which anyone, but especially men, can feel but would never admit in public.
The reader is involved in the descriptions that arouse affections and pity in him but may sometimes feel irritated by Rob's childish mistakes and contradictions.
A bitter-sweet, extremely funny book that will make you spend pleasant hours...
on 26 March 2004
Rob Fleming, the narrator of HIGH FIDELITY, is a bit of a loser who runs a failing record shop in London and is attempting to sort out his feelings for his girlfriend, Laura, who is about to dump him when the book begins, for a guy who used to live upstairs from them and regale them with the sounds of his sexual exploits through the thin walls. Rob is aware he's a loser, and attributes it largely to being dumped by Charlie Nicholson, who appears on the very first page of the book as #4 on his list of five all-time worst breakups. This is the best possible introduction the reader can have to Rob, who is a compulsive list-maker, along with his slacker employees at the record shop, Dick and Barry. They spend their copious free time making lists as diverse as "Top Five Films of All Time" and "Top Five Songs About Death." These guys judge people by their musical tastes and, to a lesser extent, what films they like, and they're cruelly and immediately dismissive of anyone who doesn't make the cut. When Laura does dump Rob, he's almost accidentally pushed to take a long hard look at his life as he finds himself first dating a folk singer, then looking up the five women who dumped him in the past to try to achieve some sort of bizarre closure.
Most of us know someone like Rob, a guy arrested in adolescence with a huge record collection he obsessively catalogues and re-catalogues (first chronologically, then alphabetically, then finally, triumphantly, in the order in which he purchased each item). This guy never finished school, doesn't own a suit and doesn't seem have much of a future. Rob, however, is vaguely aware that this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs and that if he wants to get back together with Laura, it might have to change, and this makes him an endearing character in spite of himself. Sure, sometimes he acts like an "arsehole", but he admits it, and Hornby's unflinching look at what makes guys do the stupid things they do is both illuminating and affirming. (We all suspected there was a subconscious method to the overt madness.)
Hornby's style is immediate, articulate and hilariously funny throughout. The first-person, present-tense narrative puts readers in Rob's head with all its self-doubt, arrogance and confusion. When he screws up, you flinch and laugh embarrassedly; when he stands up for himself and does the right thing, you want to cheer. A great book! Another (shorter) novel I enjoyed was THE LOSERS CLUB by Richard Perez
on 26 April 2006
As good as the film, if not better... That may well be a worn-out cliché dragged out of the 'after-dinner conversation' bag-o-tricks; and for very different reason the written forms are so often better than their celluloid partners. Let me re-phrase that - the films are so often BAD, that the book now seems much better than it was in reality. Here, however is a clear example of a BRILLIANT film; one of the outstanding drama/comedies of the last decade, that comes from an equally brilliant novel. Suffice to say that if you appreciated the film then you would equally appreciate the book. How can I say that with such certainty? Well because entire passages were lifted STRAIGHT out of the book and filmed verbatim, that's how! - I hardly think the 'screenwriters' really deserve any mention at all in that respect.
The only people who might not get this book are Americans, or anyone with no knowledge of Britain or REAL contemporary British culture (there's not one mention of fish & chips - think again). I'm talking, sarcastic, dry, witty, ironic, poignant humour often of the blackest variety, sharp and cutting it will leave the initiated rolling on the floor or stifling laughs in crowded trains.
I cannot recommend this book enough, it's a quick read that will leave a lasting impression on you and if you have seen the film beforehand, all the best scenes (especially the Jack Black ones) will come flooding back as you read those memorable lines.