Sunday, June 15, 2014

#29 [2014/CBR6] "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby

I promised myself I wouldn't do this again, that I would not get behind in writing up my reviews. Yet somehow it's happened again. Oh well, perhaps someday my willpower will live up to my unrealistic expectations.

Although I've seen "High Fidelity" with John Cusack, it was awhile ago and I barely remembered it. I probably wouldn't have picked up High Fidelity--the book (1995) by Nick Hornby except that it was the most recent choice of my book club.

I had mixed feelings about this book: before, during, and after reading. On the one hand, this book was original, honest, and often funny. On the other hand, I really disliked Rob, and I had a hard time relating to him. He was selfish, immature, myopic, and manipulative. It was hard to like a book where the main character kept irritating me.

To recap the plot, although I'm pretty sure anyone interested knows already: Rob owns a record store in London and his long-term, live-in girlfriend, Laura, has just left him for the tenant upstairs. Rob looks back at the five most devastating break-ups he's had as something of a learning experience to see where he's gone wrong. Rob's life continues post break-up as he sees other women and figures out his feelings for Laura.

One of the things that bothered me about Rob, which I couldn't put my finger on until after I'd finished, was that Rob doesn't seem to care about Laura as a person--ever. He sometimes feels bad for deliberately hurting her feelings, but more often not he only thinks about himself. He doesn't care about anyone else and he has a disturbing lack of sympathy for others.

I have to admit that there was some growth with Rob as a character, but even in the end [SPOILERS] he decides to be with Laura, not because he truly chooses to be with her, but more because he's less miserable with her than without her for the moment. Perhaps I'm too much of a romantic, but I hate the idea that there are men like Rob out there. I don't want to end up with someone like him.

I'll leave this review with some quotes, beginning with the ones that made me dislike Rob:
-"I used a degree of force that would have outraged and terrified an adult female, but got nowhere, and when I walked her home we hardly spoke." (13)
-"[I]f I don't have to go around feeling hurt, and powerless, and miserable, I can cope without her. In other words, I'm unhappy because she doesn't want me; if I can convince myself that she does want me a bit, then I'll be OK again, because then I won't want her, and I can get on with looking for someone else." (110)
-"But it's all bollocks, really, a cartoon sketch of a decent, sensitive guy which does the trick because I am in a position to invent my own reality and because--I think--Marie has already decided she likes me." (119)
-"One day Laura's sorry and guilty, and the next she's scared and angry, and I am entirely responsible for the transformation, and it hasn't done me any good at all." (157)
-"But I'm not going to put Liz straight. I'm not going to tell her that all this is a way of regaining control, that I don't know if I love Laura or not but I'm never going to find out while she's living with someone else." (164)
-"I wanted to hurt her, on this day of all days, just because it's the first time since she left that I've been able to." (255)

And some of my favorites:

-"You can see this everywhere you go: young, middle-class people whose lives are beginning to disappoint them making too much noise in restaurants and clubs and wine bars. 'Look at me! I'm not as boring as you think I am! I know how to have fun!'" (30)
-"...and the fact that we had the knack of being able to come at the same time (and this, it seems to me, is what people mean when they talk about good sex..." (73)
-"Oh, we know, both of us, that it shouldn't matter, that there's more to life than pairing off, that the media is to blame, blah blah blah. But it's hard to see that, sometimes, on a Sunday morning, when you're maybe ten hours from going down to the pub for a drink and the first conversation of the day." (185)
-On happiness: "This seems incredible to me. The most important thing in life, and you can't tell whether people have it or not." (226)
-"Over the last couple of years, the photos of me when I was a kid, the ones that I never wanted old girlfriends to see...well, they've started to give me a little pang of something--not unhappiness, exactly but some kind of quiet, deep regret." (205)

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