High Fidelity

Nick Hornby, Author
Nick Hornby, Author Riverhead Hardcover $21.95 (323p) ISBN 978-1-57322-016-3
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British journalist Hornby has fashioned a disarming, rueful and sometimes quite funny first novel that is not quite as hip as it wishes to be. The book dramatizes the romantic struggle of Rob Fleming, owner of a vintage record store in London. After his girlfriend, Laura, leaves him for another man, he realizes that he pines not for sexual ecstasy (epitomized by a ``bonkus mirabilis'' in his past) but for the monogamy this cynic has come to think of as a crime. He takes comfort in the company of the clerks at the store, whose bantering compilations of top-five lists (e.g., top five Elvis Costello songs; top-five films) typify the novel's ingratiating saturation in pop culture. Sometimes this can pall: readers may find that Rob's ruminations about listening to the Smiths and the Lemonheads--pop music helps him fall in love, he tells us--are more interesting than his list of five favorite episodes of Cheers. Rob takes comfort as well in the company of a touring singer, Marie La Salle, who is unpretentious and ``pretty in that nearly cross-eyed American way''--but life becomes more complicated when he encounters Laura again. Hornby has earned his own place on the London bestseller lists, and this on-the-edge tale of musical addiction just may climb the charts here. First serial to Esquire. (Sept.)
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