Monday, June 26, 2006

Book 10: High Fidelity

By Nick Hornby

I must say, this was a brilliant find at The Word bookstore. I was looking for a light, undemanding read for my upcoming trip to Vietnam, and there it was, in perfect paperback condition, for only $6! Usually, due to my packrat tendencies to cherish things which give me pleasure, I hold on to books that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, to revisit eloquent passages, to lend to others, to maybe even save for a future re-read.

So I was sadly reluctant to leave Hi Fi behind in Hanoi for my host, Seb, who expressed interest in reading it. How could I refuse someone who provided me free, comfortable lodging for a full week? Sigh. Besides, “High Fidelity” is the kind of poignantly funny book that’s meant to be shared, because it will frivolously enrich other people’s lives just as it frivolously enriched yours.

If you’ve seen the movie and read the book, you’ll see how the movie version is one of the best adaptations of a novel in cinematic history, despite the fact that the film producers had replaced the very English Crouch End setting with the very Americanized one of Chicago, Illinois. Reading the novel was a lot like watching the movie all over again, and more, because you get the itty bitty novelistic gems a movie normally glosses over, such as the brilliant term “snob obscurantist”. What’s more, by reading the novel, you get to experience the original droll British wit. By the same token, the movie did capture a good chunk of the book’s subtle, but all-important gemmy little details, and most significantly, it faithfully captured the novel’s humour, insight and spirit.

Anyway, we all know the premise of “High Fidelity”, so I won’t bother with a plot summary. What I will say is that what I most appreciate about Hornby’s novel are its sly jabs at people with bad, aka populist, taste. If you’ve ever been a bit of a snob about anything, esp. music, and have visited many a friend, or a friend of a friend’s home, you may have had many of the following experience:

"So I wander over to the shelf, and turn my head to one side and squint, and sure enough, it’s a disaster area, the sort of CD collection that is so poisonously awful that it should be put in a steel case and shipped off to some Third World waste dump. They’re all there: Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd, Simply Red, the Beatles, of course, Mike Oldfield (Tubular Bells I and II), Meat Loaf … "

Brilliant, just fucking brilliant!


Wlodzimira Yoshida said...

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jarrett said...

Well, I'm not sure I agree with Mr? Yoshida, but he? has a right to speak.

I have so enjoyed the Hornby movies that I want to get into the books. This sounds like a good start.

Is John Cusack the Billy Joel of acting?

beemused said...

yeah, I want to read About a Boy, too.

you said: "Is John Cusack the Billy Joel of acting?"

what do you mean by that?

Lantzvillager said...

I've always enjoyed reading the books by this author. he writes in a very easy-to-read style and his books are aimed squarely at my generation. His book about football was a good read as well. My only concern is that he doesn't seem to have a lot of range, and that after you've read a few of his books they seem pretty much the same.

Olman Feelyus said...

I loathe Nick Hornby purely on the principle that I detest everything that is hip and popular with my generation.

Crumbolst said...

I read his book 31 Songs and found it lame. Since that's all I've read of his, that's been my impression of him: not horrible, just lame. But I've heard About a Boy is excellent and your review here is strong, too. Maybe I ought to give him another chance.

dsgran said...

I love Nick Hornby soley based on Mr.Feelyus' distaste for him.

I thought both "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy" were great movies and HF was a great book as well (didn't read AaB). I didn't mind the transition to Chicago at all, it worked just fine. And the casting was perfect. That little bald dude was amazing, and the parts in the book seem written for Jack Black and Cusack.