Friday, April 20, 2012

BC2012: Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

I bought this at the Borders bankruptcy because I enjoy Sheffield's writing (mostly about television) in Rolling Stone. I chose to read it now because Sheffield provided a blurb for the back cover of The Advanced Genius Theory.

Subtitled "Life and Loss, One Song at a Time", the book uses track listings from some of Sheffield's mix tapes to help tell the story of his relationship with his wife, who died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism at age 31. He reveals this on page 14, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. While it's always awkward to spring a surprise like that in a memoir (i.e., had he withheld it until it happened in the order of the story), knowing ahead of time gave me a sense of impending doom that made the book harder to read. In fact, when I realized a few sentences into a chapter that his wife's death was probably coming (I recognized that Sheffield was describing the mundane in great detail, which usually portends unexpected tragedy), I put the book down and spent all afternoon doing something else because I didn't want to read it yet.

Regardless, this is a good book. Sheffield manages to incorporate the songs from his mix tapes into the story without the effect becoming gimmicky, and since he is near my age, I could recall and identify with a lot of the music. He also succeeds in painting a loving but not hagiographic portrait of his wife, and he describes the mourning process about as vividly as one could (considering that such times tend to be blurry, in my experience). I have a feeling that writing this book was a large part of that process, as well.

It's a good thing that I liked this book because I also bought Sheffield's second book, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, during the Borders bankruptcy sale (I made a lot of gambles like that, buying multiple books from authors I hadn't read yet).

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