High Fidelity Critical Overview - Essay

Nick Hornby

Critical Overview

Nick Hornby is often referred to as the master of the male confessional because he is able to shed light on how men think (at least according to Hornby’s interpretation). It has been said that women love Hornby’s writing, especially his novel High Fidelity, because it is like reading a man’s private diary. Women learn what is inside men’s heads. Men are said to like reading Hornby because of the seeming ease he has in putting his (and many other male’s) thoughts down on paper. This might be the reason that High Fidelity quickly became a national bestseller.

High Fidelity is fun to read. The narrator, Rob Fleming, though often pathetically insecure, is very funny. He mocks himself but Hornby never portrays Rob as morosely depressed, though he may well be. Another reason High Fidelity is fun is because of all the references to music, which most readers can relate to. As Michelle Huneven wrote for the Los Angeles Times in her review: “Nick Hornby’s second novel, ‘High Fidelity,’ is a book as plaintive, catchy, affecting and rollicking good fun as the best pop songs.”

There is another reason for the popularity of Hornby’s novel: his writing is excellent. Hornby writes as if he were having a conversation with his best friend. High Fidelity “is a substantial yet effortless read,” wrote Robert Christgau for the Village Voice. It is “as skillful and stimulating as a good album by, oh, a smarter Tom Petty, or a catchier Joan Jett.”

Hornby’s novel takes a different form than many other bestsellers. Although there is a timeframe, a loosely set plot, and characters who progress through a series of changes, readers might feel more like they are listening to a confession rather than to a story. But the book is so entertaining and insightful that no one seems to worry about the form. “This is a wonderful read,” wrote Chris Savage King for the New Statesman & Society. Hornby’s High Fidelity is “funny and moving. It’s not a novel, exactly—but who cares?”