Ok, I was intrigued off the bat because of this book’s title: Love is a Mix Tape. As someone who has spent her life making mix tapes, CDs and, now, playlists, I was curious as to what this book was about.
Turns out it’s a well-reviewed memoir by Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield about his relationship with his wife, who died suddenly at age 31. From the Village Voice:
Sheffield writes about their life together with such excitement that her death never looms; its inevitability fades. We meet Sheffield as an awkward kid in Boston and follow him through high school and college. When he encounters Crist, they’re both grad students in Charlottesville, Virginia. We see them fall in love and get married and go on road trips and argue and watch TV. The boy-meets-girl stuff might not be anything new, but Sheffield tells the old story with an impressionistic warmth. And so when she dies, it’s a sudden jerk out of a hazy dream. It’s a hard book to finish.
Sheffield builds his story around 15 mix tapes that he and Renée made. The device would be insufferably precious in almost any other writer’s hands. But Sheffield is a music critic (as was Crist), and the constant talk of music never feels like a self-conscious distancing technique; it’s the prism through which the two saw the world. Sheffield’s love for Renée and for music are so tightly intertwined that it’s a wonder he was still able to listen to anything after she died. But he kept all those old tapes, and has built an enormously moving book out of them.
I love this quote from Sheffield: "Every fan makes [mix tapes]. The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with – nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they add up to the story of a life."
The Denver Post says: "As if there was any question, this is Renee’s book. Sure, Love Is a Mix Tape also touches on Sheffield’s early years making mix tapes for school dances and his current life as a Rolling Stone contributing editor who spends his nights at rock clubs holding hands with someone not Renee. It’s a loving homage to an extraordinary relationship, and Sheffield obviously took a great deal of time, nuance, love and care in crafting this, his greatest mix tape yet."
However, the review also says, "Sheffield’s post-Renee depression is drawn out to the point of exhaustion. The sadness is overwhelming, and even the jaded will sympathize with him. But the tone isn’t the problem. The length is. Just as Renee emphasized life, this book should spend more time on the living, love and lives that Sheffield is so adept at capturing." So the book is not without its flaws.