I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I’m certainly not the dumbest. I mean, I’ve read books like The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Love in the Time of Cholera, and I think I’ve understood them. I mean, They’re about girls, right? Just kidding. But I have to say, my all-time favourite book is Johnny Cash’s autobiography, Cash, by Johnny Cash.
-Rob Gordon, High Fidelity
What you choose to read says a lot about you. Whether you choose to read says a lot about you. But you can’t judge someone by the covers of the books they read. As such, one of the attempts that I have made to get inside Rob’s mind this year has been to read the books he mentions in the quote above. So, here are a few brief thoughts on how these three books go along with High Fidelity‘s Rob.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING:
Joke about it though Rob may, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being is to a large degree about girls. More specifically, it is about the relationship between men and women, what we expect out of relationships, how partners in a relationship view the world differently, and how those differences can screw things up.
The story is told in a nonlinear fashion and weaves itself around the interconnected personal relationships of four individuals, Tomas, Tereza, Sabina, and Franz, set against the backdrop of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The main character is a man who habitually keeps women at an emotional distance, who over the period of time covered by the novel, struggles with the consequences of letting an element of romantic love enter his life. Sound a little like Rob? I think so.
But I can also see why Rob wouldn’t really take the book to heart. Rob puts this book forth as evidence of his being a smart person. It seems like he read it as a defense against accusations of stupidity. He’s not reading it as a tool of self-reflection. Even if he were, the book comes across as quite pretentious. There is much less forward momentum than there is stewing about the metaphysical symbolism of love. Rob doesn’t want to hear about people’s souls not operating by the same definitions of love, and then examine his own life accordingly. He just want’s to brag that he’s read a smart person book.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA:
Would you wait a lifetime to pursue your one true love? Rob wouldn’t. He seems to have trouble looking ahead to the day after tomorrow. It’s no surprise that Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera didn’t make a huge mark on Rob.
It is the intricate story of how, on the Caribbean coast around the turn of the century, Florentino Ariza falls in love with the haughty Fermina Daza. He slowly woos her, only to lose her as she settles into a dry marriage with the greatly respected Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Ariza then spends decades waiting for the good doctor to die. Hooray for love! Honestly though, this is an enjoyable enough read with well developed characters, even if the whole “waiting a lifetime for love” thing isn’t quite your cup of tea.
Still, it’s no surprise that this isn’t a book old “jumping from rock to rock” Rob would latch onto. It is, however, a good book, if you like books about old people falling off ladders while trying to catch parrots.
Here we have a book for Rob. These are nothing more and nothing less than the badass ramblings of an aging musician. There is no overarching plot. There isn’t even a semblance of a story to follow. There is a story about how a drugged-up Johnny Cash set an entire mountain on fire. Hell yeah!
There is no attempt made to disguise the fact that this book is the result of Johnny Cash sitting down with Patrick Carr on a couple of occasions and talking his ear off. Patrick Carr gussied up what came out, and sold it as a musician’s autobiography. But what is contained within its pages is earnest and real. It offers a look at what it might be like to spend a couple hours talking to Cash.
Love is certainly a topic which comes up, but for once, the book’s protagonist is someone that Rob could compare himself to, without feeling bad. Cash is a bit of an asshole when it comes to love. If he’s not perfect, why should Rob be? There is comfort here for Rob, and no harsh realities glaring at him. You can be a real jerk most of your life, and then settle down in Jamaica with June Carter when you get old.
A story about a womanizer finding true love, with a bunch of music industry anecdotes thrown in? Good job, Rob, you’ve found your all-time favorite book.