Hornby’s on. the right track
First football, now women, men and record collections. Nick Hornby climbs on the couch and details his obsessions. Jonathan Trew takes the notes.
He's a decent bloke is Nick Hornby. A sterling geezer who gets his round in. knows when to open his mouth and when to shut it. Moreover. he can clearly articulate what being a bloke is all about. No mean feat when you consider what a bundle of contradictions most men are — selfish without meaning to be. clumsin considerate. in need of commitment and unable to commit. one eye on the main chance the other on the carpet slippers and the security of marriage. a mortgage and a couple of rug- rats.
His last book. Fever l’ilr'll. looked at what is the almost exclusively male preserve of the football terraces. in particular the terraces of his beloved Arsenal. Examining loyalty. identity. hatred and love. Homby intellectualised the game and made it palatable for the chattering classes. By studying-not only the game but also its wider context. he produced an effective analysis of what football means to people.
His latest work. High Fidelity. works on a broader canvas. serutinising with a warm and easy wit that
Nick Homby: sterling geezer and fine novelist to boot
most basic and necessary area of human activity —
. relationships between the sexes. The book‘s anti-hero
is Rob Fleming. a 35—year-old music obsessive. the underwhelmed proprietor of an ailing second-hand record shop who hasjust been ‘singled' by his live-in lover. Laura. There is absolutely no football involved
' whatsoever. Apart maybe. from an oblique reference
His problem is not one of vaulting ambition, but of terminal indecision.
in the name of Rob‘s shop >— Championship Vinyl. Rob‘s problem is that he lives in the neverever
' world of popular music. defining his life in terms of
all-time top five lists whether it be the top five break-
- tips in his life. the top five favourite careers he
wished he had pursued or the top five best songs in the universe ever. They are. at least on any given day. given Rob‘s fickle nature. Marvin Gaye‘s ‘Let‘s (let it ()n‘. " ‘his ls The House That Jack Built‘ by Aretha Franklin. ‘Back In The USA‘ courtesy of Chuck Berry. the Clash‘s ‘White Man In The Harnmersmith Palais' and Al Green's ‘So Tired Of Being Alone‘. in case you were wondering. r Iow everyone has their favourite songs. Few people are quite so retentive as to put them in lists and separate them out. one above the other as though it really mattered. Inevitany he gets dumped and as a result. goes through a mid-life crisis. making a nuisance of himself with his ex. snapping at his colleagues and generally being an arse. to use a bloke's term.
Hornby though doesn't see Rob as a stereotypical lad. ‘I think he‘s too miserable and truthful to be the classic bloke. There is beer. women and song but he‘s not Rod Stewart.‘ he explains.
The difficulty has little to do with a mutual incornprehension between men and women ~~ ‘Laura understands Rob only too well.‘ reckons llornby ~- rather the crux of the matter is in Rob‘s chronic inability to settle down. Not because he doesn't want to. but because he does not know what he wants. His problem is not one of vaulting ambition. but of terminal indecision. ‘He wants to keep his options open.‘ says Homby. ‘He'd rather spend his whole life waiting for tomorrow to come than think about what is happening now.‘
Sound familiar“? The beauty of High Fidelity lies in its universality. Everyone can recognise little bits of themselves and their own lives in it. At one point a reporter asks Rob his girlfriend's name:
‘Umm . . . Laura.‘
‘Just . . . Lydon.‘
The pauses mark out the cosy familiarity of long term lovers, as natural as breathing and as close and cosy as a double duvet. Just watch out for those bedbugs.
High l'i'tlelily by Nir‘k llonrby is pub/is/ml by (iii/limit at £14.99 on Thurs 6 April.
It had to happen: the first travel book on the Internet has hit the shelves. It’s a sort of Rough Guide to Cyberia, a travelogue for wannabe net-heads, written in a pop-culture style that perfectly mimics the on-line digressions and ellipses of your average young Internet user.
‘I’m writing for media junkies everywhere,’ says j.c. hertz, the woman with the Impressiver apposite name for an Internet junkie. ‘I started writing as a rock critic for my local alternative weekly in Boston. When I stumbled onto the net I thought it was so bizarre and fantastic that I had to write about it because it was every bit as outlandish as the rock scene I was covering, only there wasn’t a crowd of
‘- .- ' parallels to truisms about
hertz the net-junkie
journalists there. So it was a good place to poke around, be curious and
And poke around she does. Into pyrotechnics user groups where kids swap stories about the big bangs they have created. Into Multi User Dungeons or MUDs where you create your own character and wander around a virtual Dungeons and Dragons game. Into flame wars, where name-calling has been developed into a fine art and SIIDDTIIIG IS DDIIE III UPPER CASE. Into a gay sex talking shop where she passes for a guy and has a homo-erotic bath with another
Which is a fascinating tour. But the very vastness of the Internet is a severely restricting factor, as hertz agrees: ‘I think there are so many
psychedelics on the net. It really depends on who you are, what state of
mind you are in when you go on the net. It’s like the proverbial elephant: Depending on what part of it you’re feeling up it’s going to be completely different.’
‘Ihe part that hertz is feeling up is where 12-21-year-old boys are playing. Which reinforces the media stereotype of your average Internet surfer: spotty, nerdy and anally retentive.
‘I think that’s why it is interesting that I was the person who wrote this book,’ counters hertz. ‘l’m not the typical net user. I’m female for one. And I was into punk before I was into the net. It really contradicts the whole net demographics, which Is perfect because I’m looking at it as a complete outsider.’ And as a complete outsider, she has written an enjoyable and engrossing read. (Thom Dibdin) Surfing On The Internet - A let-Head’s Adventures Dn-Line, Abacus, £9.99.
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