Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

I read this book about a year ago and thought “oh fuck! this guy has taken about every theme from my first piece-of-shit book Summer Rain and incorporated them into a novel that’s actually interesting, funny, and touching.” My first read made me both jealous and overjoyed. I kept the book around with a group of other novels that reminded me of what I needed to do during the eventual rewrite of Summer Rain. (other said books include John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, Rupert Thomson’s The Five Gates of Hell, some key points in On the Road, Shampoo Planet minus all of the generation X crap, and an ever-changing list of Bukowski fiction).

I’m rewriting Summer Rain now, for a lot of different personal reasons. Hornby’s book fell into my hands again, because I was too cheap to buy new reading material, but mostly because I wanted to keep thinking about Summer Rain, instead of buying some book about futuristic bug aliens that read minds and colonized the planet Mars or something. Reading his book kept me on track, and made me think much more about the new edits to my book. But, his story made me think of some other themes, and this is one that haunted me:

You can look back, or you can look forward.

Here’s the deal: this book is about a guy named Rob who is in his mid thirties and lives in the UK. He runs a beat-up record store out of the way in some dark alley, and works with two other characters who are total music bigots. I mean they have 40,000 records in their house, they listen to walkmen constantly, they are making top 5 or top 10 lists all the time (top 5 blind performers, top 5 side one, track one openers, worst 5 bands, etc). Anyway, the book starts with Rob talking about his top 5 breakups. Why? He just got dumped. And now he’s 35, pissing away at some tiny shop, wondering what’s next.

Hornby’s got all bases covered here. He’s hitting you with the hilarious and screwed up antics of this small record store, sort of like a UK version of the movie Clerks or something, and you’re also getting the quite real and touching story of this guy trying to figure out what it all means. He messes around with an American folk singer woman, and tries to look up all of the women he’s dated in some self-masochistic ritual of trying to find out what went wrong.

Like I said, this all reminds me of what went on in Summer Rain – the main character got dumped, and he spent the better part of a summer trying to find out what path to follow in life. But what hit me more was how Hornby had detailed a lot of the strange emotional conditions that had led to my writing of Summer Rain. I became a writer because I got dumped by somebody, and needed to find something to do besides sending her emails about every 20 seconds and asking what was so wrong with me or what did I do or would therapy help or is this something that happened to me as a child. And Summer Rain became a vehicle for me – instead of looking up my old girlfriends and asking them what was wrong with me, I could animate them, and watch them interact with the other characters in my book, and find out what went wrong during the course of the novel. I don’t know if it exorcised any demons, but it kept me writing.

Anyway, it is a good book, and worth reading. End of book report.

I went to see the band Dream Theater on Saturday night. It was a totally last-second plan; I heard about it on the radio that afternoon, and it was only $20, and right down the hill from me, so what the hell. The club is called the Fenix, and it’s massively small for this kind of deal. As a dance club, it’s pretty huge, but get a couple of big-dick drum sets and about 28 tons of amps in there, and it gets small fast. They sold out of tickets (lucky I got down there around lunch to buy one before then), so it was wall-to-wall leather jacket in there. I went by myself, and didn’t really talk to anyone, but I got there just as the opening back started, so I missed any awkwardness there.

The opening band pretty much sucked – some amalgam of the most annoying and marketable parts of U2, Pearl Jam, and Blind Melon, or something. They weren’t horrible, but I didn’t find them too noteworthy, and if you listened to 5 seconds of both bands, you could tell that this was the doing of some record exec. I was standing by some fratboys that were really into this band, which sort of proves my point. Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as seeing the Cult open for Metallica, but it wasn’t like seeing Primus open for Rush, either.

[Editor’s note: the band I mentioned above was actually Creed.]

I’m really into Dream Theater’s first two albums and their EP. I got an advance copy of their first album long before it was out, and played the damn thing thin. I wasn’t into their second-to-newest album, Awake, and I didn’t know they had a new one. So there’s my problem – they played a lot of new stuff, and I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. Granted, it all sounded cool, but it was unfamiliar to me. After a LONG time, they did some stuff from the EP, then the first two albums, and I was into that.

The band’s pretty tight and all of the musicians are more than talented. It was weird to see them on such a small stage, but reassuring that so many people showed up. They did a lot of weird improv-melody type stuff. Long drum solo. Chapman stick. Lots of guitar. A keyboard player. Instrumental stuff. High-end operatic vocals. It was all there.

If you’re wondering why I don’t paint a broader picture, it’s because I am weird about concerts. It’s so anti-climactic in a sense, and although I recognize music perfectly, I can never remember the damn names to songs, let alone lyrics. So I’m not the kind of person that can memorize a set list and post it up here and talk about all of the exact technical stuff that went on. Either it was good, or it sucked. This concert was good. Not as good as the G3 tour, but pretty good.

I’ve decided I need to buy more CDs. And I need to get a new stereo someday. Hornby’s book reminded me that I was obsessed with the Beatles 5 years ago. Now, I don’t have any of their stuff on disc (I do have Revolver on tape). The White Album is this haunting return to this time when I lived in my tiny Mitchell Street apartment, hit on every woman that moved, and tried to program in C with every chance I could get. But, like Hornby taught me, you can look back or you can look forward….