High Fidelity is a novel written in 1992 by the British author Nick Hornby. The story detail's Rob Fleming's struggles to cope from the break up of his relationship with Laura and his failing record shop. A major part of Rob's problem is ...
High Fidelity is a novel by British author Nick Hornby first published in 1995. It has sold over a million copies and was later adapted into a feature film in 2000 and a Broadway musical in 2006. In 2003, the novel was listed on the BBC's survey The Big Read.
Nicholas Peter John Hornby (born 17 April 1957) is an English writer and lyricist. He is best known for his memoir Fever Pitch and novels High Fidelity and About a Boy, all of which were adapted into feature films. Hornby's work frequently touches upon music, sport, and the aimless and obsessive natures of his protagonists. His books have sold more than 5 million copies worldwide as of 2018. In a 2004 poll for the BBC, Hornby was named the 29th most influential person in British culture.
Awards and honours
1993 William Hill Sports Book of the Year, Fever Pitch
1999 E. M. Forster Award
2002 WH Smith Literary Award, How to be Good
2002 National Book Critics Circle Award, shortlist, 31 Songs
2003 London Award
2005 Whitbread Novel Award, shortlist, A Long Way Down
2008 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, Slam
2012 British Sports Book Awards, Outstanding Contribution to Sports Writing
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(1995) High Fidelity
(1998) About a Boy
(2001) How to Be Good
(2005) A Long Way Down
(2009) Juliet, Naked
(2014) Funny Girl
(2019) State of the Union
(2000) "Nipple Jesus"
(2005) "Not a Star"
(2005) "Small Country"
(2005) "Otherwise Pandemonium"
(2012) "Everyone's Reading Bastard"
(1992) Contemporary American Fiction ISBN 0-312-04213-2
(1992) Fever Pitch ISBN 0-14-029344-2
(2003) 31 Songs ISBN 0-14-101340-0 (Also published as Songbook in the US, ISBN 1-57322-356-5)
(2004) The Polysyllabic Spree ISBN 1-932416-24-2
(2006) Housekeeping vs. the Dirt ISBN 1-932416-59-5
(2008) Shakespeare Wrote for Money ISBN 1-934781-29-0
(2012) More Baths Less Talking ISBN 978-1-938073-05-2
(2013) Ten Years in the Tub ISBN 978-1-938073-73-1
(2013) Stuff I've Been Reading
I have known quite a few men like Rob Fleming, the central character of Nick Hornby's first novel. Men who not only look for but find the meaning of life in a sleeve note or a chord change in a Pretenders' song. Men who believe that the only reliable way to glimpse the soul of another is via their record collection.
I have spent nights celebrating such men's 33 1/3 rd birthdays - 33 1/3 , because when all is said and done such men would really rather be a piece of vinyl than a human being. In Vinyl-land, you get to rub shoulders with the other great pieces of vinyl. You don't have to relate to those other kind of people, the ones who for some reason don't choose to define themselves in this way - women.
You see, Rob and his friends, Barry and Dick, who work in Rob's second-hand record shop, know that what really matters is what you like, 'not what you are like'. They make endless lists of records, films, episodes of Cheers, in order to prove themselves to each other. In Fever Pitch (1992), Hornby brilliantly charted the intimate dynamics of fandom long before the vogue for Fantasy Football. In High Fidelity, Rob and his mates are experts at Fantasy Compilation Albums, Fantasy Soundtracks for Fantasy Lives.
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.
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