Sunday, March 21, 2010

A whiny SOB

Forgive me, dear reader, if I haven't been uploading KyusiReader lately. It's been a very busy week, and I've been working 14-hour work days lately. And it was also the week I turned 36 (I'm a St. Paddy's day baby), so I was busy consuming tons of cake. Forgive me again, dear reader, that my next review isn't about a good novel, well in my opinion anyway. This isn't a review; it's a rant.

So my book club decided to have a discussion on Nick Hornby's debut novel, High Fidelity. It's a novel about music (and music lists), relationships, and basically just trying to grow up even though you're 35 and own your own record shop. High Fidelity was first published in 1995, and it has still endured until today. I guess this has something to do with all those top 5 lists found on every chapter of the book. There's a list for practically everything -- your top 5 songs that you should have with you if ever you get stuck on a deserted island, your top 5 movies of all time, your top 5 failed relationships.

High Fidelity's main character is Rob, a 35 year old who's so into music. Naturally, he opens his own record shop and employs Dick and Barry, two slackers who are music snobs. Rob has just ended a relationship with Laura, a lawyer and the only girl he's been serious with. To say that Rob is still in love with Laura is an understatement. In the novel, we see how Rob lists all his break-ups and overanalyze what exactly went wrong. Eventually, Rob and Laura do get back together, but it isn't the same. Laura has become more cosmpolitan, and Rob, well, Rob's still the same -- still insecure, still whiny, still in the search for "who he really is and what he wants out of his life."

The novel is really more of a celebration of music. I think readers get a kick out of agreeing with Rob and Barry's tastes in music. And it is music that Rob uses to make an analogy on life. Just read the following paragraph that compares making a mixed tape with the workings of a relationship:
I spent hours putting that cassette together. To me, making a tape is like writing a letter -- there's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again, and I wanted it to be a good one, because . . . to be honest, because I hadn't met anyone as promising as Laura since I'd started DJ-ing, and meeting promising women was partly what the DJ-ing was supposed to be about. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You've got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention ... oh, there are loads of rules. [page 89]
I read High Fidelity on the week I was turning 36, which is incidentally the same age as Rob who was also turning 36. I kept on thinking if it's really possible that people in their mid-30s are still hung up on their past relationships. I do understand how Rob gets too preoccupied thinking of his career. His record shop isn't doing well and he feels a high degree of unaccomplishment. (I also have sleepless nights thinking of my career. A friend who's the same age as me told me that, in a few years, we wouldn't be "marketable" anymore.)

There's not much of a plot in High Fidelity though. A couple of my book club buddies also had a difficult time finishing this novel. I think we're not used to reading a male character with too much introspection. High Fidelity is basically your chick lit with testosterone.

Read this book if:
  1. You're passionate about music.
  2. You spend hours of your day thinking of your past relationships and what went wrong with them.
  3. You like lad lit.


Melange said...

Well, at least you finished it right? I don't have any interest in this book, but you're review while not necessarily good for the book, was great.

Happy Belated Birthday!! I've also been slacking at my blog, but I'm back now! I just revamped it again, now it's all ready for Spring/Summer!
Have a great Sunday!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Melange! Thanks for the greeting and the comment!

C.B. James said...

I've not read the book. I like Hornby's column about books he wrote for True Believer magazine. These are collect in a book called Shakespeare Wrote for Money. I don't think I've ever read any of his fiction, thought.

I do remember the movie version o High Fidelity being very funny.

Peter S. said...

Hi, C.B. James! Ooohh! I think I'll check out that book. I'll probably like the columns better.

Anonymous said...

Yay, you're back, Peter! And a belated Happy Birthday!

I've been remiss with my blog but I have no other excuse except for the heat and the resulting langour. Anyway, you in top form for posts again.

And LOL on this review or rant. The lists sound like an annoying feature.

Ryan Fuentes said...

Happy Birthday, Peter!

I think I'm going to not read this book. I watched the movie anyway. Though I forgot what's it all about. All I remember was that Jack Black was on it.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Peter! I completely agree with that quote, which I think was in the movie as well (or something similat to it). Although, nowadays, with the ease of making playlists, the labor and thought that goes into making a mixed tape might be alien to younger generations.

Charlie said...

36! There's no way you look 36. But I'll take your word for it and a belated Happy Birthday.

It's good to have you and your reviews back, and I think I'll pass on this book.

Peter S. said...

@josbookshelf: You can check out the book for yourself, Jo. The lists being annoying is probably just me.

@Ryan: Hmmmm... I have to get a copy of that movie.

@StephanieD: I think young people don't even know what a mixed tape is.

@Charlie: You flatter! Thanks!

bloo_meowmeow said...

Great discussion! Just posted my review and recap too.

Cant wait for next month!!!

(open id doesn't seem to be working on any of the blog platforms lately and attempting to comment has been driving me crazy!

back to my google id for now)

Peter S. said...

I'll see you next month, Blooey!

Anonymous said...

Don't fret Peter!

I've been inactive at blogging--just posting without actually visiting other's blogs. It's been a punishing first quarter of the year--both physically and psychologically.

I do believe I'll love this book. I just know it. I love music and reading about heavily highlighted male characters.

Happy birthday, Peter! Don't let personally worries get into your frame of mind. Look at the bright side--you're a year wiser, you still have a job, and you have us, your readers.


Peter S. said...

Hey, hey, hey! Thanks, scribesexpress!

SariJ said...

Happy Birthday Peter! Ah to be 36 again. This is the year I re-evaluated my life. I made a lot of big decisions that year. Some good, some heartbreaking but all made me the person I am toady. I wish your life path leads you to wonderful things.

Peter S. said...

That's one of the best birthday messages I've received this year, SariJ. Thank you so much!

Alexia561 said...

Happy belated birthday Peter!

Sorry to hear that you didn't care for this book. I remember liking it, and being disappointed with the mover version. Thought it worked much better set in London, and sad to say that I knew a few guys that reminded me of Rob.

Hope your long days are done and you have time to relax a bit!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Alexia! Thanks for the greeting. Yes, my work hours are shorter this week.

victor gregor said...

I'm glad that I bloghopped today and stumbled upon your page. Great, great posts. I have lagged lately on my reading, and this just about reminds me I've not read anything new for almost two months now.

I have read Hornby's About a Boy and it does sound weird that the guy character could be so, as you said, introspective. I guess that's also the case with High Fidelity.

Anna said...

Happy belated birthday!

Diary of an Eccentric

Peter S. said...

@victor gregor: Thanks for dropping by! I guess guys being introspective is quite common among bloke or lad fiction.

@Anna: Thanks for the greeting!

Cynewyn said...

Tried Nick Hornby once...ugh is the only word to describe it for me! The absolute archetype of a total chore to read. I've just finished devouring East Lynne - now there's a decent story! How're you finding that one, Peter?