A quick comparison

A tale of two books

   

Nick Hornby

author

        George Orwell

High Fidelity

title

Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Rob

protagonist

Gordon Comstock

Owns and manages a dead end record store in the 1990s

occupation

Works in two dead end book stores in the 1930s

Sex, lack of money, wanting to fulfill his dreams

Preoccupation

Being a “writer,” lack of money, lack of sex

Himself

main love interest

Himself

Laura

the female figure who occasionally appears in the story too

Rosemary

Mopes around in the record store thinking about his lack of sex and the previous occasions when he had some

main action

Mopes around in the book store thinking about his lack of money and the previous occasions when he had some

Has wild affair while girlfriend is pregnant, she gets abortion then shacks up with the guy upstairs, then there’s a funeral

key plot points

Gets paid for some writing, gets wasted, loses money and job, gets his girl pregnant on the first attempt

Bands I’ve never heard from before the turn of the century

the book has too many references to …

Books I’ve never read from before the turn of the previous century

Returns to job that gave him a sense of fulfillment, accepts his life with the one woman who would put up with him

Outcome

Returns to job that paid okay, accepts his life with the one woman who would put up with him, buys an aspidistra

Great use of the first person, which I’m usually wary of, plot bombshells dropped just when it threatened to be a bit too boring. Wimpy ending.

Review

Not Orwell’s best, and he disowned it owing to publishers stuffing around, but an engaging read if occasionally repetitive. Wimpy ending.

Better than Jessica Rudd

Rating

Better than Jessica Rudd

 

Seriously, it was hard to read these two books within weeks of each other without noticing the similarities. They are quite different, in that Hornby wrote High Fidelity in the first person as Rob, while Orwell stuck to third-person reportage. They exist in different generations, and different economic and social structures. But they deal with money pressures, love, lust, art and the protagonists each claim to be following their dreams but are instead stuck in self-destructive and obsessive habits. Both books (something of a spoiler alert) end up with the men settling for what they have, or perhaps it should be seen as accepting what they have is not so bad after all and they should appreciate that. Hornby’s was the better read, one of the very few first-person books I could find myself being swept away with. Orwell was worth reading simply because it’s Orwell and even not at his best there is much to enjoy.

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