Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Review: Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time

I should preface this review by saying that a lot of what I've been reading lately has been lackluster. Not good, not bad, just....not anything. I've read a lot of books this year that I haven't even mentioned here because they didn't make me feel anything at all. They weren't good books but they also weren't bad enough to compel me to write a fun review about how much I disliked it. I hate it when I fall into that sort of rut, reading book after book and feeling completely indifferent about all of them. I have a personal goal to review most of what I read, but if, as I write my review, I start to bore myself, there is no way I can expect you folks to care about what I have to say. Which is why I'm so glad I finally got around to reading Love is A Mix Tape, because I LOVED THIS BOOK.

The author, Rob Sheffield, is a music journalist who has written for Rolling Stone but he's probably most known for popping up on VH1 to give a well informed opinion every time music is discussed. I've always sort of liked what he's had to say so his books have been on my to-read list for sometime. Love is a Mix Tape is all about Sheffield's too short time with his now deceased wife Renee, who died suddenly and unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism, just five years into their marriage.

Each chapter starts out with a picture of the cover of a mix tape, including band names and song titles. As the chapter progresses, Rob discusses himself and Renee and what they were doing at the time that particular tape was made. At first glance, the book might come off as trite, just the mundane details about the lives of a young music loving couple, but it's so much more than that. Rob speaks of his late wife so sweetly and with such love, that I'll just come out and admit it: The whole thing melted my cold, hard, normally bitter, heart.

One part specifically that really got to me was when Rob describes the time he and Renee returned from a road trip to find that the power had been cut off and they didn't have the cash to settle the bill:

There was no way I could have seen it coming, yet the fact that I couldn't protect Renee from it drove me crazy. How could something like this just happen? Why couldn't I do anything about it? I had felt helpless many times, as an adult even, but feeling helpless as a husband was different from anything I'd ever felt in my life. This was just a temporary snag, but it made me realize how many more of these there were going to be. I was going to have to get used to feeling helpless if I was going to remain a husband. And being a husband made me helpless, because I had somebody to protect (somebody a little high-strung, who had a tough time emotionally with things like the lights going out indefinitely.) Man, I thought it was tough being broke when I was single, but being broke as a husband is not even in the same category.

That paragraph just tore me up. I think that sort of sentiment coming from a man is greatly missing in books today. You expect it from a woman, but from a's unusual, but in a good way. The entire book was filled with these little moments. When we get to the chapter where he describes Renee's death, he writes about not believing that it's really happened and how he keeps thinking she'll return or call. When he finally leaves the apartment he takes the home phone with him, even though it was a traditional land line and would have done him no good, but he didn't want to think about Renee calling and not getting an answer.

Although I stayed in a perpetual choked-up, near tears state throughout most of the book, it definitely had its funny moments as well. Rob Sheffield is a quick witted, wordy guy, so the story never bores. Here he describes how they would fight over money:

One of us was a scrimp-and-saver, the other was a big spender. Neither of us was what is known as an "earner."

So yes, I loved this book and think that you should read it. It's a quick, easy read, but also original. (It's a shame that this type of male perspective is so lacking in literature.) I'm anxious to read Sheffield's latest book, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, but I may wait a while on that one. I'm not yet ready to think about him without Renee.


beck said...

I always enjoy reading your thoughts on books. I'm going to keep an eye out for this one, thanks Tammie x

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I too love your reviews Tammie. This book sounds great to me. Music and Love. I'm a sucker for them both.

Daphne said...

This sounds great and totally like something I would read. I'm going to keep my eye out for it. Have you read High Fidelity? Sort of the same vein only not so personal/sad.

Tammie said...

daphne: i do think you'd like this one. and yes, i have read high fidelity and a lot of nick hornby's other work and it's definitely along the same line as this.

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

I think I would cry my way through this book. It sounds kind of like "Love Story." I had myself a big sob-fest over that one.

BTW....Anonymous has started stalking my blog. She left all kinds of crap statements.

Tammie said...

jodi: i HATE anonymous. sorry they found you.

Maria Rose said...

I will have to the book in my line up.

hester said...

The book sounds great. I find myself drawn to books about grief sometimes because the experience seems to cut through the bullshit and people have something really moving to say. Makes me think of an Australian book called "Bear is Now Asleep" written by a guy whose little girl died in a freak accident from a falling soccer post. The author is incredibly honest about his struggle to cope and still be "the husband" holding the family together.

Stephanie Meade Gresham said...

I read it a few years back, but now I want to read it again. I just need to remember who I loaned it to... hmm.

I cried so much my husband told me to stop reading it.

Dani said...

This book sounds perfect. Perfect for me. Just perfect.

Hey, I'm putting together a summer book list. Do you mind emailing me 5 books that you consider absolute must reads...besides this one?