Friday, June 18, 2010

High Fidelity / by Nick Hornby

Rob Fleming sees things in fives. For anything and (nearly) everything, he's got his top-five lists: his top five girlfriends, top five most memorable breakups, top five bands, top five bands for each genre, top five songs of each top five band, top five dream jobs (including several choice gigs set in bygone eras), top five songs to play at a wedding, " " at a funeral, etc. and so on. A London record store owner/manager, Rob's definitely a connoisseur of all things popular music, and he's never ashamed to set someone straight about, say, The Kinks top five greatest concerts or which song on the Beatles White album is the most euphonic. Though, being a proprietor, he tries to maintain a somewhat professional demeanor. He's not quite as fanatical or finicky an aficionado (read: snob) as Dick and Barry, his two nerd-extraordinaire store clerks who each possess an unhealthy excess of opinionated verbage.
After breaking up with his longtime girlfriend Laura (who he's always considered his soulmate despite the fact that her record collection is, incidentally, intolerably incompatible with his own), Rob employs various diversions to comfort his broken heart and dissatisfied worldview. In addition to rearranging his music into the order in which he bought each album, Rob tries to reconnect with many of his previous girlfriends (some of them top fivers and some not), each encounter odd in its own way. He also forms an interesting relationship with a troubador-esque American named Maria de Salle, whose free-flowing, less pretentious outlook on life offers Rob a different outlet for his constant, perpetually neurotic ruminations.
Hornby, author of bestsellers Fever Pitch and About a Boy as well as recent YA favorite Slam!, has been one fiction's most readable novelists for the past two decades and most people, especially Gen X'ers, are easily able to tap into his upbeat style and plethora of cultural references. In High Fidelity, his second major novel, published in 1995, Hornby excels at characterizing the cult of "musical elitism", a trendy, satirical term for describing the ambiguous, often over-the-top world of pop music criticism. Hornby is a fun writer and this is a fun book, entertaining and comedic but with a nominal serious streak and reflective aura. (FIC HORNBY)

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