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High Fidelity, Nick Hornby, Riverhead, 1995, ISBN 1-57322-016-7, $21.95, 323pp.

One of my weaknesses is a fondness for novels about fictitious music groups, evidenced by some of my favorites: George R.R. Martin’s The Armageddon Rag, Iain Banks’ Espedair Street and Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments. To this group I can now add the first novel by Nick Hornby, appropriately titled after words found on many of your finest long-playing records.

Rob, Barry and Dick are clerks at an offbeat record store, the type of store which never seems to attract many customers but still manages to stay in business. They’ve got some of the latest CDs, but their mainstay business is handling those obscure wax singles and recordings by local artists. The three also have a fondness of putting together lists of their “Top 5” things: films, Elvis Costello songs, episodes of “Cheers,” etc. The story is told in the first person by Rob, as his Top Five list of ex-girlfriends.

The whole premise here is unassuming, yet Hornby’s gift for capturing the ennui of the dropped out class with gifts for accumulating an extraordinary amount of trivia is perfect for the plot. While this sounds suspiciously like a Generation X novel, or maybe even the plot to Kevin Smith’s movie “Clerks,” Hornby escapes the genre by writing a charming book filled with hope and love (although there’s some guilt and pain that has to be dealt with before you get to the end). I enjoyed Hornby’s style as well–clean, with lots of true- sounding dialogue, and embellishment only when necessary. A great first novel, and a writer to watch for in the future.

[Finished 28 March 1996]


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