Torch Reads

The top five reasons to read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby:

First, it’s hilarious and insightful. Second, Hornby captures the male psyche like no other. Third, once you pick it up, you can’t put it down. Fourth, it’s full of lessons on relationships. Last but not least, it’s got bunches of top-five lists just like this one.

High Fidelity is the first book of the author who wrote About A Boy, Fever Pitch, and Songbook. However, just because it was his first doesn’t mean it was his worst. It ranks right up there with the rest of his work.

It’s the story about Rob, an elitist when it comes to music, who owns a record shop and has recently broken up with his girlfriend, Laura, who left him for his neighbor who lives upstairs. To start out, Rob recaps his all-time most memorable split-ups with past girls and he is proud to say that Laura doesn’t even make the top five.

As he tries to get over his failed relationship, Rob continues to work in his unsuccessful record shop with his friends Barry and Dick, who constantly provide witty dialogue. Let’s just say that if Rob represents the ego, then Barry is the id and Dick is the superego. They are completely different and yet inseparable. Rob tries dating an American recording artist, but things get interesting when he starts to see Laura again.

One of the brilliant elements of this book is how it is almost a window into the mind of men.

Hornby depicts the uncertainty, the burdens, the insecurity, and the pressures that all men feel at some point in their lives. He recreates the inner dialogue that has gone through the head of any man trying to deal with a failed relationship. Rob asks himself questions we have all asked ourselves: “Why did she leave me?”, “Who is he?” and “Can I win her back from him and if so, how?”

Hornby masterfully creates a bond between the reader and Rob. One can’t help but to feel sorry for Rob. What’s more is that Rob probably doesn’t even deserve any such sympathy. After all, he did sleep with someone else while Laura was pregnant, (which caused her to get an abortion), borrow $5,000 from her and not pay it back, and lastly, tell her that he was unhappy with the relationship and looking for someone else. Still, one finds themselves rooting for this guy.

In order to give the reader a break from the protagonist’s battle with relationships, Hornby demonstrates an uncanny knowledge of music through Rob, Dick, and Barry. He explores the connection between music and personality. For example, Dick is shy and quiet, so he listens to more soft, mellow music. Barry, the lead singer of a band named “Sonic Death Monkey”, is an intensely upbeat guy, so he listens to faster, more powerful music. Rob, being a figurative (and sometimes literal) mediator between the two, is somewhere in between.

Hornby uses this pseudo-memoir to explore many problems of relationships and life through the guise of Rob. What makes a person stray from a loved one and seek out a complete stranger? Should one define themselves by their relationship with someone else? Can you make judgments about a person based solely on their record collection? Can you become a mature adult, but still be the same person you used to be? These are all questions Rob must deal with in High Fidelity.

Rob goes through a rights-of-passage and becomes a more mature man. It’s a book about struggling to make transitions. Rob still sells vinyl records in the mid-1990s. He is stuck in the past and struggling to make the leap to the present. He has to fight some personal demons and face some fears, but eventually he grows up and becomes a mature adult.

This book is not just for men or just for music junkies; it is for everyone. In fact, one could argue that it would be more interesting for women to read this novel. It is not every day that you get to see the ups and downs of a relationship through the eyes of a man. It could be a learning experience. In addition, there is an abundance of aspects which both sexes can relate to in this book. From the perils of growing up to deciding what you want to do with your life, there is a lesson in here for everyone.