Dec 05, 07
Read in December, 1995
No matter how avid a reader you are, if you’ve just been dumped, the first thing you need is not a book: that would be a quart of bourbon and Ryan Adams’s album Heartbreaker. That second item, at least, is one that would meet with the approval of Rob Fleming, the feckless protagonist and narrator of Nick Hornby’s first novel, High Fidelity. In the wake of dozens of subsequent single-person-alone-in-the-city knockoffs and the passable 2000 Stephen Frears/John Cusack film, it is sometimes difficult to remember how fresh and funny and dead-on Hornby’s novel felt when it first came out in July of 1995.
One of my pet quarter-baked theories is that good literature works in one of two ways: it is either transformative, taking you out of yourself into the mind and heart and experience of someone drastically different, or it is cathartic, taking you more deeply into yourself than you thought possible. The former is probably the purer aesthetic experience, but nothing quite matches the deep and peculiar pleasure — the shock of recognition — that accompanies reading a description that vibrates perfectly with your own emotional state. 1995 was a bleary, depressive year for me, just out of my own lacerating romantic fiasco and mired in what felt like an endless Boston winter; Rob Fleming’s dyspeptic wit and stubborn, childish self-absorption felt like bracing missives from a fellow damaged romantic. After all, bourbon can only take you so far.
From AMERICAN BOOK JAM, #10, 2004, in response to the question "What is the best book to read if you've just broken up with a girlfriend/boyfriend?"