When it comes to music, everyone has that album they can listen to over and over again, without ever getting tired of it or skipping a track. For me, that record is New Miserable Experience by the Gin Blossoms. And in the world of books, every reader has that tattered tome they’ve read cover to cover a dozen (or more!) times. You don’t skip pages. You don’t skim paragraphs. You enjoy every single word as if its the first time reading it.
For me, that book is High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.
The novel came out in 1995, but I didn’t discover it until I was in high school. I was full of angst and confused about how love and relationships were supposed to work (as most early teenagers are), when an older friend of mine, a senior when I was a sophomore, suggested I read it. I was skeptical. A novel about a heartbroken record store owner in London? How was this going to make sense to me?
Surely you remember the moment, that first moment, when you felt like a book really spoke to you. Reading High Fidelity, that was my moment. Growing up, I always loved reading. I loved books. But this was the first time I felt like a book loved me back.
This author, this Nick Hornby guy, he knew everything about 16-year-old me! How was this possible? I related everything to music! I made (painfully awkward) mixtapes for girls. I was confused about my place in life. I consumed the book, told everyone about it, and watched the (utterly perfect) John Cusack film so many times.
As I grew up, I started to understand more of the book in a way the frustrated 16-year-old version of myself couldn’t. The brutal breakups that would become my breakups. The frustration around growing up. The catharsis to be found in organizing a library (he used records, I used books).
Autobiographical? Sure, why not.
This book helped me realize who I was, before I even knew myself.
This weekend is Record Store Day, a holiday that I’m sure Nick Hornby’s record-shop-owning, music-loving protagonist Rob Fleming would appreciate. In honor of that, here are some great quotes from the book I adore so very much.
And Nick? Thanks for understanding, and helping me through every new miserable experience.
On Music: “People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”
On Commitment: “I’ve committed to nothing… and that’s just suicide… by tiny, tiny increments.”
On Depression: “It’s brilliant, being depressed; you can behave as badly as you like.”
On Growing Up: “Over the last couple of years, the photos of me when I was a kid… well, they’ve started to give me a little pang or something – not unhappiness, exactly, but some kind of quiet, deep regret… I keep wanting to apologize to the little guy: ‘I’m sorry, I’ve let you down. I was the person who was supposed to look after you, but I blew it. I made wrong decisions at bad times, and I turned you into me.’”
On Breaking Up: “A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You’ve got to kick off with a killer, to grab the attention. Then you’ve got to take it up a notch, or cool it off a notch… oh, there are a lot of rules.”
On How Relationships Work: “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.”
And there are just so many more. What are some of your favorite Nick Hornby quotes, readers?