I’m a massive Nick Hornby fan, probably because I am as jaded, sarcastic and ironic as the characters he dreams up.
Most of them are London-based (like me), are not very good at finding or keeping love (like me), end up saying the wrong thing all the time (me), and have more exciting lives in their heads than in reality (me again).
If there ever was a Hornby character that echoes my own heart, it’s Rob Fleming in High Fidelity.
He harrumphs around, makes a mess of his life, is pessimistic about optimism, and struggles to fit in.
And to me he somehow feels real…and genuine…
Not the charmed buttercups and bubblegum that we’re made to believe in, from books and movies!
But the humdrum of soggy tea bags and missed buses that life actually is.
Here are my two favourite passages from the book.
The first, is probably all the reasons why I would fall in love.
The second, just a reminder to myself that men have a lot more to worry about…
And no, I’m not going to give you too much context; you have to read the book yourself!
(when Rob looks back at the experience of his first kiss at age thirteen)
‘When I want to kiss people in that way now, with mouths and tongues and all that, it’s because I want other things too: sex, Friday nights at the cinema, company and conversation, fused networks of family and friends, Lemsips brought to me in bed when I am ill, a new pair of ears for records and CDs, maybe a little boy called Jack and a little girl called Holly or Maisie, I haven’t decided yet. But I didn’t want any of those things from Alison Ashworth. Not children, because we were children, and not Friday nights at the pictures because we went Saturday mornings, and not Lemsips, because my mum did that, not even sex, especially not sex, please God not sex, the filthiest and most terrifying invention of the early seventies.’
‘Why is failure the first thing I think of when I find myself in this sort of situation? Why can’t I just enjoy myself? But if you have to ask the question, then you know you’re lost; self consciousness is a man’s worst enemy. Already I’m wondering whether she’s as aware of my erection as I am, and if she is what she feels about it; but I can’t even maintain that worry, let alone anything else, because so many other worries are crowding it out, and the next stage looks intimidatingly difficult, unfathomably terrifying, absolutely impossible.
Look at all the things that can go wrong for men. There’s the nothing-happening-at-all problem, the too-much-happening-too-soon problem, the dismal-droop-after-a-promising-beginning problem; there’s the size-doesn’t-matter-except-in-my-case problem, the failing-to-deliver-the-goods problem…and what do women have to worry about? A handful of cellulite? Join the club. A spot of I-wonder-how-I-rank? Ditto.’
Hornby makes me laugh at my cynicism; the fact that I think like his characters makes me check myself. And that being a good thing, also adds a smile to my face.