There must be some kind of zeigesty thing going on as my friend Owen wrote a blog this week on High Fidelity. Either that or he’s just nicking my ideas…
I’ve read this before, and obviously seen the film a few times, but I felt like reading something familiar. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the tale of Rob Gordon, a man recently dumped by his long term, live in girlfriend. It’s a single focus story which means, as with all first persons, that you can’t quite trust the protagonist. In this case, however, you feel that he’s more honest than most. Be warned, there might be spoilers ahead.
Rob’s not a very likeable person, but like any normal human being he has good and bad points in his character. He owns a record shop, Championship Vinyl. A quick google turns up about 60,000 hits for ‘Championship Vinyl shop’, and one site lists it as ‘the greatest record shop that never was’. Other than that, he’s in his mid thirties and still thinks he’s a student. He’s also obsessed with the past, and quite a large part of the book’s taken up with him tracking down all of his ex-girlfriends in an effort to prove that he’s blameless for his recent break up with Laura. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but that’s just the way I see it.
Despite this, though, I still like Rob Gordon. If I met him, I’d probably have a drink with him (not in that way) although he’d no doubt bore me to tears within about twenty minutes, talking about his top 5 songs not to drive to (Number One: Leader of The Pack) or quizzing me on my five first gigs, then cringing at choices I made more than a decade ago.
Music is a big part of the book, and it’s satisfying when you recognise the song being discussed, although it’s equally dissatisfying when you don’t. It’s the same with everything, I suppose – books, food, film… You’re part of a club when you know the reference, and when you’re not, you nod along and pretend you know what’s going on.
Another big part of the book is the location in London. Not the square mile, but the Zone 6 areas. It’s dingy and rundown but it grounds it in a reality that I felt the film lacked with an American setting. Don’t get me wrong – they did a good job transferring it, but everything was made a bit more shiny, glossy, hopeful. Marie LaSalle in the book is peaches and cream, slightly rounded, whereas in the film she’s Lisa Bonet – lithe, sexy and more coffee and cream. To be honest, these are minor gripes and I think both the book and the film stand up well to scrutiny. I have to wonder though, how happy Nick Hornby is at least two of his London based books being transferred across the Atlantic, the other one being Fever Pitch, which morphed from a football focussed book into The Perfect Catch, a baseball loving Jimmy Fallon wooing Drew Barrymore. I think the rights money probably eased that pain a little.
I’ve read a few of Nick Hornby’s books now, and High Fidelity is the most appealing one to me, probably down to the amount of music and the effect it has on Rob’s life, from teenager to middle-age. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s found themselves arranging their music in chronological order, or their films by director’s chronological order.