Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book Review: Love is a Mix Tape

Title Love is a Mix Tape
Author Rob Sheffield
Genre Nonfiction, Memoir
Rating A+

Summary Rob Sheffield's wife died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism after a short five years of an intensely-loving marriage. Rob, a writer for Rolling Stone, catalogs their relationship and his grieving process after her death, one mix tape at a time.

First Line "The playback: late night, Brooklyn, a pot of coffee, and a chair by the window. I'm listening to a mix tape from 1993."

Review I fear I'm going to do Sheffield a disservice because I finished this book on Friday and I'm just now reviewing it on Saturday; my feelings which were all a-tumble directly after finishing the book have lost a bit of their edge. My thoughts on the book, which were yesterday nearly too much to handle, are today just a dull pain that resides in the back of my mind, and I fear I'll carry that pain with me permanently.

Let's talk about how I got this oh-so-awesome pain.

When Rob describes a scene, like his memories of his older brother's neighbor washing his Trans Am in the driveway every Saturday while blasting "Peace of Mind," you can just feel it. Or when he talks about his short foray into middle school student government so that he could be the dee-jay at the dances, how he labored over whether or not to use the studio or the live version of "Carry On Wayward Son," and then found out that girls don't like either version and, at a dance, if the girls don't like the music, then nobody likes the music because the girls aren't dancing, you re-learn that important lesson with him. On the other hand, when he talks about his grief after Renee's death and fearing to leave the house because she might come back, you feel that too. And it's intense.

But the whole thing isn't intense. Sometimes you laugh... like many year's after Renee's death, Rob listens to a mix tape that she'd made for him and when he hears Belly's "Feed the Tree," he says, "Belly? Aaaargh! Renee! Why are you doing this to me? This band blows homeless goats." Not every memory he has of Renee is sanctimonious, which is how you know it's real. I also laughed at this line (and then went and read it to my sister who laughed too), "In some circles, admitting you love Top 40 radio is tantamount to bragging you gave your grandmother the clap, in church, in the front row at your aunt's funeral, but those are the circles I avoid like the plague or, for that matter, the clap," (97-98). Genius.

But here's why this book is going to stay with me for a very long time... maybe forever. Because after I finished reading the book I was in the car and the first song I heard (because Sheffield taught me that music is powerful) is Pink's "I'm Still a Rock Star," the pop anthem inspired from her amicable divorce (that's now not as poignant because she and her ex-husband are back together), but none the less, I realized love blows homeless goats. Sure, it's amazing, but because it's so amazing, because you let this person into your life so completely, that person also has the power to hurt you so significantly that I wonder if love is even worth it. How can you win? You get divorced, you lose. You're married happily, but then that person dies, and you still lose. Maybe you get lucky and you die first, but is that really winning?

Sure, Sheffield eventually got to where he could function again and has even fallen in love again, but it'll take me a long time before I'm recovered from reading this book.

By the by, I didn't really like a lot of his music selections (he's older than me and way more into indie rock than I'll ever be), but you can still appreciate what he's writing about. Music, any genre, any era, has power to affect us.


Ali said...

Aw, Heather, I'm sorry this made you so sad. My belief is that loving people and letting them close enough that their loss would hurt almost unbearably is what makes us truly alive. Yes, it's scary, but even if you lose the person, the love lives on.

That said, I often skip those "loved and lost" books, because they get to me, too.

Kirsten said...

I went out and bought this thanks to your teaser; it's on my immediate TBR, and I'll probably be scheduling it for discussion on my blog in the next couple of months. Hope you can come by and participate, and that I love it as much as it sounds like you did :)

Scrap girl said...

Sounds like a hard story to read. I have trouble reading about people moving on after a death.

Jess said...

Fantastic review -- this sounds like a great read.

Sabrina said...

I got this book per your A+ recomendation. I just love it. I am a lover of music and a lover of the Mix tape. Its so interesting how he weaves the music into their story. I balled my eyes out when she died. So very sad.
Great book!!!