Want to read a lot in a short period of time? Plan a vacation where there is no computer, no web access, and your hostess is a big fan of Jeopardy. While at my grandmother's house this past week, I read a whole pile of children's books from her local library to the kids (including finally finishing The Magician's Nephew, which Red and I have been working on for a while) and read two books myself. I had been waiting for a while for Mennonite in a Little Black Dress to come in at the library, but I wanted one more book to bring along that looked interesting but was also light weight---literally not figuratively because I had to fit it in the diaper bag with all the other stuff the kids wanted to bring on the plane. During my quick perusal of the library shelves, I found High Fidelity. It was the paperback copy that came out at the same time as the John Cusack movie with his mug on the cover. The book looked modest in length (Yay! Light weight!) and I had seen the movie and vaguely remembered it being good. I checked it out and it quickly became part of my carry on luggage.
After wrapping up the Mennonite book, I plowed into High Fidelity. I had no idea when I checked out the book that the author was Nick Hornby. I recently read his book A Long Way Down and was not super impressed by it so it was good that the author remained a mystery to me until later. For those of you who have seen the movie but not read the book, here's your first surprise---the book is set in London. Yes, gone are the streets of Chicago and we are dropped into the world where hollering "Bollocks!" is standard fare. Once you get over the fact that they are not in America and the slang is going to be unfamiliar, it moves on much as the movie.
The main character Rob is a 30 something owner of a vintage record store who never grew up. The book opens with a summation of his first six relationships, going all the way back to his first tongue kiss at age 13, and how they all went to pot. Fast forward to the present, in which his long time live in girlfriend Laura has left him for Ian, the extremely loud love maker who lives in the apartment above theirs. Next, Rob meets singer-songwriter Marie and attempts to replace Laura with her, while essentially stalking Laura and her new boyfriend. When I put it that way, the books sounds just awful and not something I would normally want to read at all, but then it got good.
The more I read the more I realized that Rob is me at age 20. Coincidentally, the book was written around the time I was that age. No, I never owned a record store, or rattled off top 5 lists with my employees (although my top five songs are "Dancing Queen" by Abba, "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order, "Tear in Your Hand" by Tori Amos, and "Cryin'" by Aerosmith---which was a toss up between that song and "What It Takes" for the #5 spot. Good thing this isn't for an interview. I might have to call back and change my answers like Rob did in the book), or dated a semi-famous singer, but I did jump from relationship to relationship looking for something. And I made a lot of mix tapes...a LOT of mix tapes. I think everyone I knew had a mix tape from me. Back to my relationship issues---I was never one to do the dumping. I just sabotaged things to make that occur imminently. I don't know what I thought would happen after stacking all the furniture in my college boyfriend's dorm room up against the door and then climbing out the window (keep in mind, we were in the midst of a serious prank war at the time, but did I really think he would find that amusing?). In Rob's case, when the spark starts waning he searches for a more glittery substitute. He spends time phoning up and visiting those first six girlfriends in an attempt to figure out how he went wrong all those times. Finally, he has a break through when Laura's father dies and he meets his mortality and his relationship saboteur ways head on.
I enjoyed this one. For me, it was a glorious trip down memory lane littered with pop culture music references and witty banter. Record shop employees Barry and Dick felt like friends to me. You'll have a whole slew of music titles you're going to want to listen to after reading this one and you'll be glad for it. Let's dust off the old mix tapes and break out the boom box!