Groove Me

A friend of mine has been trying to get me to read High Fidelity for awhile now – he loved the book, and he thought it would help me along with one of my writing projects. I slated it for September, figuring it would be a good lead in to Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon’s latest dazzling novel. I loved both of them, but in different ways.

I can sum up High Fidelity in two words: SPOT ON. I had to chastise Ryan for not warning me how strongly it would impact me! I’ve never owned a record shop in London, but working in a bookstore in Salt Lake City I’ve experienced similar highs and lows. Rob has just broken up with Laura, a lawyer. My wife has just passed the bar exam and will soon be sworn in as a lawyer. He’s thirty-five, with a March birthday. Bingo. Now I’m afraid I’ll spend my 36th birthday watching Terminator 2 and snacking on kettle chips! At one point Rob wishes that his life was like a Bruce Springsteen song; I’ve got the edge on him there (“The River”). The parallels are striking, but I haven’t decided if I will follow his lead when it comes to my U2 essays. Hornby nailed it with this book, and trying to emulate him would end in bitterness (particularly as Rob included U2 on his list of groups to assassinate in the musical revolution).

I didn’t go straight to Telegraph Avenue after High Fidelity; I took a breather with one of the books Rob referenced, Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments. I loved the movie (although it also slams U2) and introduced Ryan to it when we were teenagers. I better buy both movies; I already own both volumes of The Commitments soundtrack. My appreciation of Roddy Doyle came later, so I decided I needed to backtrack and read the novel for a brief but entertaining interlude.

Telegraph Avenue is magnificent, but I didn’t identify with Archy Stallings or Nat Jaffe, co-owners of Brokeland Records, like I did with Rob Fleming. I haven’t lived in Berkeley or Oakland, so I don’t feel the prevailing ties to the community.  I didn’t grow up in the days of blaxploitation films and muscle cars, either (the enhanced edition of the e-excerpt helped). The only midwife I knew growing up was an odd duck. I’ve never been in a bi-racial or bisexual relationship. I have no interest in the particulars of the novel (aside from the underscored buy local theme and the Dream of Cream cake), yet Chabon’s writing is so evocative that his particular passions are laid bare. He’s a writer that I would like to emulate, so that even those individuals who don’t like U2 will still enjoy reading about my passion for their music. I may be a lot like Rob, but I want to be more like Chabon.

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