Over the years I have bought about half a dozen copies of "High Fidelity" and given them all away to friends with the exhortation to "...read this, it's just wonderful"! Sadly none of my friends ever seem to find the same sense of unadulterated joy in Hornby's prose as I do.
My current copy came from a charity shop and has a small sticker on the back saying "50p - Good", obviously intended as a comment on the physical condition of the book, but which I mistakenly took to be a critical review. I still recall my embarrassment on marching to the desk demanding to know why it didn't say "excellent"!
The blurb inside the front cover starts with a quote from the Guardian: "The most frequent response to High Fidelity is `Oh God, I know people just like that'..." Well it's true; I do - me. Whenever I re-read the novel, which has been every couple of years, I find myself wincing with painful self-recognition. Right down to the obsessive list making (each new diary of mine used to start with a list of my top ten albums, novels and movies so that I could compare the lists back to previous years).
Hornby is such an astute writer, with a real gift for comedy. If you regard "Fever Pitch" as a memoir then amazingly "High Fidelity" is his debut novel and it is astonishing. I know all the jokes yet still find myself reading with an inane grin on my face, when I'm not laughing uncontrollably - not a book to read on a quiet train. In Rob Fleming he has created a totally believable and fatally flawed human being, and I still find myself rooting for him from the bottom of my heart.
Hornby's authorial voice is conversational with an immediacy that makes you feel as though he had written a confessional just for you alone. His dialogue is an object lesson in authenticity for any aspiring writer; effortlessly fluent and compulsively readable. It certainly makes its way into my list of my top five favourite novels, year on year.
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