when it comes to making lists and ranking things, Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity” is tops. it provides a wry and stark glimpse into the mind of an over-examiner.
main character Rob Fleming (I would describe him as the protagonist if he was more affable) owns a mostly failing record shop and lives an unremarkable life. in fact, the only thing remarkable about his life is how much of it is spent inside his own head. Rob and his employees / coworkers / friends spend entire days wasting time making lists – top five movies, top five episodes of TV shows, top five albums, top five songs about days of the week, etc. and eviscerating each other for their choices. so when his girlfriend Laura (oops!) leaves him, Rob sets out to prove a point: her break up doesn’t even make it into his top five.
as I read his reflections on the breakups that DID make the cut, I have to admit, I judged Rob a bit. then I thought, who doesn’t have similarly searing memories from high school and into adulthood? and so I softened before finding myself way too familiar with a lot of emotions being expressed by this male, British narrator. hm. Rob is an interesting character just because he is so busy thinking about the past that he hardly finds time to make new memories to ruminate about. is he a BAD guy? he could be, but I’m not convinced.
there is one particular page I mentally referred to as his confession page. on this page, Rob lists the top FOUR things Laura told a friend that made said friend leave Team Rob… not the usual Five things, because really only Four were necessary for him to convince himself that Laura’s friend would never again take up his cause for reunification. this section is truly critical in our opinion-forming process.
what do I like about our narrator? his passion about music. he reflects on whether sentimental music causes heartache. he has specific rules for creating the perfect mix tape (remember those?) he is on a mission to improve the record collection of everyone he encounters. he’s also fallible in very relatable ways, whether the reader is happy about it or not. in one of my favorite sections, he evaluates the record collection of a man whose wife just found out he is cheating, and decides to sell the albums in his absence. the excitement about the collection’s value is tempered by his guilty conscience, and the resulting action says a lot about Rob and his priorities.
if you’re a music geek, read this book. if you spend too much time considering past relationships or worrying about the future or being stuck in mid-adulthood or basically taking stock of your life at ALL, read this book. if you like John Cusack, watch the movie. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, where Rob is describing the heartaches, breakups and entanglements of people he knows: “It’s just that none of us had the wit or the talent to make them into songs. We made them into life, which is much messier, and more time-consuming, and leaves nothing for anybody to whistle.”