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Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time Paperback – Dec 4 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A celebratory eulogy for life in "the decade of Nirvana," rock critic Sheffield's captivating memoir uses 22 "mix tapes" to describe his being "tangled up" in the "noisy, juicy, sparkly life" of his wife, Renee, from the time they met in 1989 to her sudden death from a pulmonary embolism in 1997. Each chapter begins with song titles from the couple's myriad mixes—"Tapes for making out, tapes for dancing, tapes for falling asleep"—and uses them to describe a beautiful love story: "a real cool hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl" meeting in graduate school a "hermit wolfboy, scared of life, hiding in my room with my records," and how they built a tender relationship on the music they loved, from the Meat Puppets to Hank Williams. Their bond as soul mates makes his reaction to her death deeply moving: "I had no voice to talk with because she was my whole language." But Sheffield's wonderful, often hilarious and lovingly detailed stories about their early romance and their later domestic life show how they created their own personal "mix tape" of life in the same way a music mix tape "steals moments from all over the musical cosmos and splices them into a whole new groove." (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Sheffield was a "shy, skinny, Irish Catholic geek from Boston" when he first met Renee. Southern born and bred, "she was warm and loud and impulsive." They had nothing in common except a love of music. Since he made music tapes for all occasions, he and Renee listened together, shared tapes, and though never formally planning to, married. On May 11, 1997, everything changed. He was in the kitchen making lunch. Suddenly, she collapsed, dying instantly of a pulmonary embolism. Devastated, he quickly realized that he couldn't listen to certain songs again, and that life as he knew it would never be the same. Fun and funny, moving and unbearably sad, Sheffield's account at its quirkiest, and because of his penchant for lists, is reminiscent of Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity (1995). Anyone who loves music and appreciates the unspoken ways that music can bring people together will respond warmly to this gentle, bittersweet reflection on love won and love irrevocably lost. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I absolutely adored this book. Rob Sheffield style of writing is so honest, natural and funny that you'll feel like your talking with an old friend. He manages too capture the spirit of the 90's perfectly too as he tells a moving autobiographical account of his years spent with wife Renee. Anyone who lived through that time and is into Pop culture will find something relatable here.
This is a tragic love story and on the very first page we learn that Renee has died, we just don't know how or why. We then flash back to the time to before they met as Rob experiences an awkward adolescence and discovers his love of Indie rock. One night Rob meets the sweet Southern girl of his dreams and although only 25 they soon marry. It's not a perfect marriage however; they're broke most of the time, they fight, they get a dog, they drink Zima (remember Zima?Read more ›
This book is for anyone who knows the importance of love, and clearly mix tapes...
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Rob Sheffield & Renee Crist were contributers to the SPIN ALTERNATIVE RECORD GUIDE. A book I've kept close at hand for years and referenced time and time again. It's led me to bands like The Wipers & The Only Ones. For which I'm eternally grateful. I haven't always agreed with Rob. In fact, once upon a time, I sent a spiteful diatribe to him because he used the word "miasma" to describe the sound of a Jane's Addiction song in a Rolling Stone review. I was too young then to freely admit that sometimes I like a little noxious foreboding in my Zeppelin spawns. Rob, I take it all back.
I was unaware that Rob & Renee were married, or that Renee had passed in a sad & sudden manner. This book is their story told through the hiss & crackle of mix tapes. It's also about the journey from adolescence to adulthood and the music that gets you there. It is so gut-wrenching and, by turns, hysterical you devour it in one sitting and if you (like me)have any of your old mix-tapes around, you'll dig them up immediately. You'll play them and they will caress and maim you...or at the very least show you how much you've grown.
It's hard for me to imagine anyone reading this book not being extremely moved. However, I know people for whom music is just background noise. They don't listen to it. They just consume it. These people have never made a mix-tape for anyone. These people are not my friends. These people have no soul.
If music is how you enter this mortal coil...if it's how you love...how you hurt...how you cope...if music has ever been the only place you've found solace...if it's been your bridge to the next unfathomable day, then I'm bettin' you've made a mix tape. Probably dozens. You've courted people with them. You've crushed people with them. You've had fights about them. Maybe your spouse has thrown them out and with them the story of your life. You need to read this book.
Sheffield is as deft writing about love as he is about music, which is saying an awful lot; he expertly captures the thrill and helplessness of falling in love, and his worship of Renee is heart-achingly poignant. Anyone who reads this and doesn't identify with Sheffield's powerful descriptions of fully giving his heart to another, and of loving someone to the point of fear (of losing oneself, of not being able to keep the other safe enough, of recognizing the other will be on hand to witness your inevitable worst), should leave his current relationship and immediately begin searching for the true "right one."
It's all about the music, though, descriptions of which are shored up by Sheffield's encyclopedic knowledge of songs and the artists who make them. Mix tapes are described in general (the Break Up tape, the Fall In Love tape, etc.), and the playlists that narrate Rob's life begin each chapter. On the one hand, the constant assault of artists, tunes, and especially lyrics can be overwhelming, to the point where there occasionally ceases to be prose (and song lines are instead grafted together to make a point). On the other, the songs are so artfully chosen, and the mix tapes do such a good job of capturing the Zeitgeist of when they were assembled, that you'd best keep a pen handy to catch all the obscure gems (and some ice, for writer's cramp).
There will come a point where each reader sees a favorite obscure song referenced in Love Is A Mixtape. It's kind of cool and personal, in a dorky way, recognizing someone who shares at least some of your tastes and knows some of your secrets. For me, it was reading that Big Star's "Thirteen" was a favorite of Rob and Renee, and that they in fact met while Big Star played on the jukebox at a local bar. Thirteen is just so sparse and beautiful, and somehow transcends even greater heights in covers by Elliott Smith and Evan Dando. Seeing it in print was a nice touch to an even nicer read.
Sheffield's writing is crisp and edgy enough to hold your attention. He is never maudlin, yet his despair over his wife's death is evident. Even though I knew from the beginning of the book that Renee died, I was still stunned when I actually read that chapter. Sheffield evokes such a tangible energy and vibrant personality that I found it incomprehensible that Renee could be dead.
Love is a Mix Tape serves as much more than a memorial; it is an explosive celebration of life and an affirmation of the power of music to bind people together.
I kind of hate Rob Sheffield for making me feel like all the relationships I've had in the past have been inadequate. I have never loved anyone like he loved his Renee. He doesn't even hide the feelings he had for her in ebullient metaphor or shlocky hyperbole. He just tells it like it is and it is wonderful and amazing and way shorter than it had any right to be. While I did blow through the chapters focused on his loss and his dealing (or not dealing) because I don't quite have the emotional armor right now to handle more mourning, it's a beautiful love story all explained in terms I totally get--song lyrics and beats and all the feelings and emotions that we associate with music.
There's probably a mix tape of my own that will come out of this that includes "Symptom Finger" by the Faint, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" by The Arcade Fire, "Mushaboom (Postal Service Remix)" by Feist, "One More Hour" by Sleater-Kinney, "Keeping You Alive" by The Gossip, "Misread" by Kings of Convenience, and "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime" by Beck, almost all of which acted as my soundtrack this morning. Somehow, I don't own nor don't think I have ever even heard "One More Hour" by Sleater-Kinney and it is the one song he goes into detail about in the book that I want to know everything about. I can imagine the track in my head by his description. I can hear Carrie and Corin going back and forth. I've already attached an emotional response to it. I will love it. Even if I was deaf, I would love it.
Sheffield goes into great detail about the significance of Nirvana on his life and, in particular, "Heart-Shaped Box". I decided while reading that I'd add Joe Hill's (Stephen King's son) recent debut novel of the same name to my queue. While reading, I aped a line of his that he stole from some outfit a member of Pavement was wearing for a twitter message. I took down quotes, one for me that's a truth I'm going to keep for myself about love and loss and fear and the real agreement that people make to each other when they go into a commitment like marriage and one for you:
"Most mix tapes are CDs now, yet people still call them mix tapes."
There's a reason for that. I leave it to you to figure out why.
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