Tag Archives: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

High Fidelity — The Book

“The term ‘paradigm shift’ has found uses in other contexts, representing the notion of a major change in a certain thought pattern—a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems or organizations, replacing the former way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking or organizing.”

I haven’t heard the phrase “paradigm shift” in ages. Has it fallen out of use, or am I just hanging out with the wrong people? Or…wait a minute!…has the paradigm shifted again while I was so distracted by my addiction to watching “Sovereign Citizen” videos on YouTube that I just didn’t notice?

Anyhow. There are some books that, if read at just the right time of your life, will shift your personal paradigm all the hell all over the place. If you’re a sensitive young white male, reading The Catcher in the Rye in your early teens will change you forever.  Reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a few years later will open your mind to possibilities you’d never imagined.

For me, High Fidelity is one of those life-changing books. You probably have to be over 30 to fully appreciate Nick Hornby’s hilarious male confessional novel about loss, fear of commitment, and the obsessive creation of “top-five” music lists.

Spoiler-free, abbreviated plot summary: Rob Fleming, 30-something owner of a failing record shop, has just broken up with his most recent girlfriend. (Her choice, and a totally justified one.) He decides to track down five former girlfriends in an attempt to find what went wrong with each of the relationships. Meanwhile, music, and the unhappiness that it creates in the people who love it. Here’s the key passage from the book:

“What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery, and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”

Selected Passages

It’s tempting to just cut and paste the entire text of High Fidelity, but this small sample should be enough to let you know whether the book is something that speaks to you.

“Is it wrong, wanting to be at home with your record collection? It’s not like collecting records is like collecting stamps, or beermats, or antique thimbles. There’s a whole world in here, a nicer, dirtier, more violent, more peaceful, more colorful, sleazier, more dangerous, more loving world than the world I live in; there is history, and geography, and poetry, and countless other things I should have studied at school, including music.”

“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.’”

“I lost the plot for a while then. And I lost the subplot, the script, the soundtrack, the intermission, my popcorn, the credits, and the exit sign.”

“I get by because of the people who make a special effort to shop here – mostly young men – who spend all their time looking for deleted Smith singles and original, not rereleased – underlined – Frank Zappa albums. Fetish properties are not unlike porn. I’d feel guilty taking their money, if I wasn’t… well… kinda one of them.”