Revisiting Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity”, 20 Years Later

By on March 11, 2015

Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity, first published back in 1995, recently revisited the idea of writing a sequel to the book — and no doubt there would also probably be plans to do a subsequent movie sequel too — in the pages of the music industry biz bible Billboard. Here’s a sample:

My first novel, High Fidelity, is about the lost but fiercely snobby people who used to sell us our music, back in the day when music was something you could touch and see and probably smell, as well as hear. (If I had been told, when I was writing it, that within a decade you’d be able to email a song, I’d have presumed that this meant you could also email a sandwich.) The book is now 20 years old, and the technological innovations of the last 15 years should by rights have made it look like a story about blacksmiths, or milkmen, or some other profession that has been murdered in cold blood by the modern world.

HIGH FIDELITY

I have, from time to time, considered writing a sequel to the book. Rob and his long-suffering girlfriend Laura seemed emblematic of a certain kind of contemporary relationship — Rob confused and drifting, Laura focused and several years further on into adulthood. Maybe it would be interesting to see how they were getting on as they approached middle age.

HighFidelity

Did they have kids? Were they still together? What was Rob up to now? The answers to the first two questions were up to me (I reckon yes and no), but I could never come up with an answer to the third, or at least, not one that interested me enough to spend a couple of years of my life exploring.

The owner of the independent store where I used to hang out is now a real estate agent; his former partner part-owns the lingerie shop that now occupies the same site. And when I asked Facebook friends from all over the world where their record-store guys had disappeared to, it was hard to see a pattern in the information they provided: postman, vintner, pornography writer, psychotherapist, drummer, bookstore assistant, waiter, tropical fish breeder … All one can say for sure is that selling scratched copies of Replacements albums didn’t help anyone lay down a conventional career path.”

Around the time that High Fidelity was published, there were hints that the music business would be changing, like shifting sand underneath the feet of nearly everyone involved, and that would include record store owners, and their record geek employees too, no doubt. It was hard to imagine, in 1995, that you’d be able to buy music with just a simple click on a keyboard, but that day eventually arrived and we’re sure everyone realizes now just how different everything is when it comes to buying music, just like the bookstores have had to resist the rise of popularity in online destinations like Amazon, to mention just one example.

Hornby thinks its still important to seek out the music, which goes a long way towards defining who you are:

“The arts are the most elaborate and most precise social network ever invented, but if it’s going to work properly, you have to get out of the house sometimes and show who you are and what you love. You have to go to shows and galleries and bookstores, you have to ask for what you want out loud. And this expression of taste must involve an impulse that, at its heart, is anti-democratic: Somewhere you have to believe that what you like is better than what all those other losers like.”

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.