High Fidelity – Staff Review
Before reading High Fidelity, my only exposure to Nick Hornby’s work was through the films About A Boy, based on his novel of the same name, and The Perfect Catch, the American film adaptation of his book of autobiographical essays, Fever Pitch, which detailed Hornby’s obsession with Arsenal F.C. I also adored the Oscar-nominated film Brooklyn, for which he was a scriptwriter, but I had never read his novels.
Over the past month, Nick Hornby has been given a few mentions in the media. During the FIFA World Cup, Hornby was approached by ESPN for his perspective on the English team. There was also buzz surrounding the upcoming release of Juliet, Naked, a new film based on another of Hornby’s novels. Additionally, it was announced that Hornby was developing a new TV series, State of the Union. As an avid music fan and record and CD collector, I decided to jump on the Hornby bandwagon and delve into his back catalogue by reading the much-loved, High Fidelity.
Set in North London’s Crouch End in the 1990s, High Fidelity is written from the perspective of unlucky-in-love record store owner, Rob Fleming. Recently dumped by his long-term girlfriend, Laura, Rob is a neurotic, nostalgic, thirty-something commitment-phobe who tends to second-guess himself, overanalyse every social interaction and self-sabotage. Rob is known for creating top five lists about a range of categories, beginning with his ‘desert-island, top five most memorable split-ups’. Other topics include, ‘Best Five Pop Songs About Death’ and ‘Top Five American Films’. Rob is stuck in the past, taking solace in his classic records, which he rearranges during ‘periods of emotional stress’, and attending gigs with his Championship Vinyl employees and eccentric friends, Dick and Barry.
Dubbed the ‘Musical Moron Twins’, Dick and Barry provide much comic relief throughout the book, as their sense of musical elitism results in customer shaming and subsequently, a lack of sales. Rob, Dick and Barry frequent Harry Lauder, the local pub, and mix with musicians. While Rob indulges in a casual fling and attempts to move on from Laura, he continues to reflect on all of his previous relationships. Struggling to understand why they went awry, he decides to get in touch with every ex-girlfriend.
High Fidelity was a thoroughly enjoyable read, peppered with musical references and harking back to the bygone era of mixtapes. Hornby’s book is an insightful look into the psyche of an emotionally fragile thirty-six-year-old male and demonstrates the way in which the characters are just ‘Little boys and girls trapped in adult bodies and forced to get on with it’. High Fidelity emphasises the importance of doing ‘something more than waiting for life to change and keeping your options open’, and after reading this hilarious and clever novel, I will definitely be exploring more of Hornby’s work.
Emily Pullen, WHSmith Australia