Saturday, June 2, 2007

Booklog, High Fidelity, Nick Nornby

High Fidelity
Nick Hornby
Penguin Putnam Trade Paperback, 323 pages

No posts recently. Not because I've been too busy, but the opposite: my significant other of nearly nine years left me on May 16. And I've been a bit distracted to really concentrate.

And boy, High Fidelity was exactly what I needed. Not least because I loved the movie when it came out in 2000... and the former SO hated it. But also because it speaks of a certain species of male, entering early middle age, stuck doing a job he doesn't really like, moving on inertia more than anything else, who has just been dumped by the love of his life.

The main character is Rob Fleming, played by John Cusack in the movie. He owns a tiny specialty record shop in London (deftly moved to Chicago for the film) and has encyclopedic knowledge of pop music. He works with two other pop-music know-it-alls, Dick and Barry, and their "top five" lists are some of the funniest bits of the book.

Rob's girlfriend Laura leaves him in the very first moments of the book, and the text is largely concerned with Rob's reaction to the breakup. He begins going through his "top five" breakups, beginning with some girl he made out with behind the bleachers when he was fourteen, and moving forward to the present day. Although he claims that Laura's breakup with him wouldn't even crack the top five, it soon becomes clear that he cares for Laura, and that the breakup is much more painful than he lets on.

Eventually Rob will meet up with the five girls on the top-five breakup list, asking each in turn what it was about him that messed up their relationships (to often hilarious results, as Rob sees these women much more clearly now that he's an adult), restart his disk jockey career, and have a one-night stand with an American country singer that is so note-perfect in the way it's executed that it's a minor masterpiece in and of itself.

I could go on and on talking about the things I enjoyed about this book, but let me leave it to just one more thing: while in the movie the ending feels a bit contrived, a bit outside of how these characters would normally behave, in the book Laura's character gets a little bit more space as a fleshed-out character, and her motivations for doing what she does become much more clear. At the end of the book, Rob and Laura are having problems with their relationship, but they're each working towards the other, and the reader is left with hope that these two crazy kids can work it out after all.

For completeness' sake, here is a review I wrote of the movie back when it came out in April of 2000.

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