Monday, August 08, 2005

High Fidelity

The rest of the weekend went well enough for me, and by that, I mean I didn't have to go back to the office anymore. I spent most of my Sunday nursing a slight fever, sleeping, reading, and still listening to Belle and Sebastian.

The only break was dinner, where I got to listen to my brother Osep tell the whole family about his UPCAT experience earlier that morning. Hard to believe he's already about to enter college. I know Frank remembers him as that little baby my mom tagged along during high school freshman dorm open house, when Frank was my roommate. That was some 11 years ago.

I did finally finish Written on the Body, and it really pissed me off. I am angry at Jeanette Winterson's conceit, stringing together a bunch of flowery words to tell a crap story, and then passing it off as a novel. I guess it's good for Winterson fans, but I liked her much better when she said, "Trust me, I'm telling you stories." She barely did on this one.

While I was in the middle of grappling with Body, I actually found time to re-read High Fidelity. I always thought About a Boy was a better-written, funnier, and more complete novel, and it certainly helped that it actually had a plot.

But I always was able to relate better to High Fidelity, and after re-reading it, I still do. It's not just the music ("Top 5 Elvis Costello songs") and the pop culture references ("Top 5 episodes of 'Cheers'") and the wry humour, although those things certainly make the book such a fantastic read.

What sets the book apart, really, is its honesty. It's been described as a man's confessional, and that's the perfect word for it. Hornby paints a picture of a regular guy and it's not exactly pretty: at different moments he is shallow, insecure, self-absorbed, petty, stubborn, cowardly, and well, he's a bit of a bastard. And despite all that, I could totally relate to what he's going through, and why he acts that way, because I can be shallow, insecure, self-absorbed, petty, stubborn, cowardly, and well, I can a bit of a bastard myself. And no, he's not a bad person, and neither am I.

I know why it drives Rob crazy when his ex-girlfriend hooks up with a guy who's into new age shit and bad music, and why he'd want to date a musician just so he could have his picture on one of her future albums, and why he gets that sick need to run away every few months or so just when everything around him settles down.

It's a brave effort, and the end result is an accurate map of the male psyche. I remember once, thinking, as a joke, that maybe I'd just make the next girl I go out with read a copy of the book, just so she could understand me better. Maybe I would. That way, just like Rob with his records, the book could do all the honesty and self-expression for me.

A while back, when Dick and Barry and I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like, Barry proposed the idea of a questionnaire for prospective partners, a two- or three-page multiple-choice document that covered all the music/film/TV/book bases. It was intended a) to dispense with awkward conversation, and b) to prevent a chap from leaping into bed with someone who might, at a later date, turn out to have every Julio Iglesias record ever made. It amused us at the time, although Barry, being Barry, went one stage further: he compiled the questionnaire and presented it to some poor woman he was interested in, and she hit him with it. But there was an important and essential truth contained in the idea, and the truth was that these things matter, and it’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently, or if your favorite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party.

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Comments:

Hmm.. I really should expand my book reading horizons.

Maybe Hornby would be a good start...though my brother has a copy of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genious lying around somewhere.

A few more days of doing absolutely nothing during the night shift ought to force me to read it, hehe.

 

hornby's a really, really good start... i bet you'd take to it the same way you took to 'sideways'. i could lend you the books the next time we see each other :D

 

"and it’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently..."

how very true. i think i've posted something like this on my blog. (am too lazy to look... hehe.)

 

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