Books and films of books often provide very different experiences. Generally, the book will be rich, deep and engaging and the film will be alright but leave you feeling short-changed. You traded your imagination for this set of images and now they’ve gone and imprinted themselves all over your memories of the story.
With High Fidelity, I actually saw the film first. I spent most of the film not really enjoying it – the kind of deal where you don’t bother pausing it when you pop out to attend to little chores – and then was grabbed as Stevie Wonder’s I Believe… started playing over the ending and wanted to go back and watch it again (thus, I guess, proving one of the protagonist’s contentions, that the right song at the right time really can change your world).
I recently borrowed the book from the library and was surprised to find myself going through a very similar experience. I tend to like books with heroes, even if they are flawed, and so Rob Fleming (champion of the ordinary) doesn’t immediately grab me. Worse still, he’s sour, cynical and almost every choice he makes is the opposite of what I’d do. I suppose he’s got an interesting record collection but I’m sure he’d sneer if he looked over the kind of things I listen to (speaking of which, see my listening list and charts on Last.FM). Reading about him felt voyeuristic – intimate glimpses into a seedy life that is far from my own.
Forget the content though – Hornby’s masterful writing was enough to pull me through. It was like listening to music I don’t like on a high-end stereo system; you still don’t like it but you still find the lushness of the sound irresistible. And then, right towards the end, there’s something hopeful in the air. You can’t quite pin it down – no crass moralising from Mr H – but there’s been a transformation and it was all worth reading and I’m almost tempted to start again.
I might as well stick I Believe on and be done with it (although, alas, I can’t find my copy of the 1972 Talking Book album so I might have to resort to humming it instead). Back to the library today… and I think I’ll be mining in the Hornby section!