3 journalers for this copy...
Sign up to our Bookmarks newsletter
In real life, Rob is 36. His girlfriend, Laura, has left him, prompting some sort of mid-life crisis, though I hesitate to use such an unspecific term. Applied to men, 'mid-life crisis' does not describe a passing phase, but the state of mind of any male over 30. In many ways, this is a coming-of-age novel for those who have spent their entire lives avoiding the issue for fear of coming too soon. Fictionally, at least, entry into the adult world is being postponed from adolescence until middle age.
So Rob does what a man's gotta do and rearranges his record collection. And when this does not hit the spot, he takes to reordering his relationships with women, as if this kind of obsessive categorising is the only way of accessing his emotions. Are all relationships, all rejections, merely repetitions of earlier ones? He goes right back to his first heartbreak, right back to Alison Ashworth no less, with whom at 13 he had a relationship that 'lasted six hours (the two hour gap between school and Nationwide)'. The affair is memorably summarised: 'First night: park, fag, snog. Second night: ditto. Third night: ditto. Fourth night: chucked.'
The first cut is the deepest. Whatever he feels about Laura, he will never feel as bad as he did back then, or as he did when the out-of-his-league Charlie Nicholson left him for a bloke called Marco. This blow made him lose the plot completely. 'And I lost the subplot, the script, the soundtrack, the intermission, my popcorn, the credits and the exit sign.'
In lesser hands, this tale could have become another psychobabble book about men's 'inability to commit' or 'fear of intimacy'. But Hornby is such a terrific writer that High Fidelity is totally charming as well as being laugh-out-loud funny. Hornby, thankfully, doesn't want to be American or aimlessly clever. But in fact, as Amis himself said in a recent interview of one of his own fictional authors, he has a purchase on 'the universal'. Hornby's purchase feels so effortless that his is a pop book in the best sense of the word.
Only the especially crabby could complain that Hornby is not writing about the state of the nation, the underclass, the overclass, weird sex or bad drugs or living on the edge. High Fidelity is about people, men and women in the middle, in a muddle, people so instantly recognisable you could hum them. In grander terms, it's about realising that one day you are going to die, so you might as well live.
Reading High Fidelity is like listening to a great single. You know it's wonderful from the minute it goes on, and as soon as it's over, you want to hear it again because it makes you feel young, and grown-up, and puts a stupid grin on your face all at the same time. If this book was a record, we would be calling it an instant classic. Because that's what it is.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
decoy to the sweepsteak of chocolates.teabags and books and I hope she will enjoy the book as Idid and hoping she hasn't read it until now.
I sought out a Spotify playlist with the songs mentioned in the book and have been listening to them. Now I want to watch the movie adaptation too. I also found out there is a new adaptation to be premiered on Hulu this Valentine (2020). So serendipitous.
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES: