Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Review of "Love is a Mix Tape" by Rob Sheffield

I don't usually do reviews, but this book really compelled me to write about it. Sadly, not in a good way.

Love is a Mix Tape was recommended to me by Amazon because I said I liked Chuck Klosterman IV and Killing Yourself to Live (also by Klosterman), and the cover was kind of kitschy and kid-ish, so I thought it would be a fun li'l read. When I was a lad (About 150 years ago), loved making mix tapes for people, and even myself. I put a lot of thought into them, like you couldn't repeat the same artist twice on one side, and you had to hit that pause button at precisely the right moment to connect the two songs in a way that almost made it seemed like they were being played live as apart of some medley. And speaking of which, John and I eventually become masters of the 80's medley, even going so far as to have a yearly 80's Mix Tape Contest, a struggle to see who could make the worst 80's tape. I think we both won our fair share. Sadly, I don't think any listener to one of my mix tapes ever put as much thought into it as I did.

The other great thing about the mix tape was to try and attract girls. This is not a joke. I made a tape for Keri before we started dating, and she swore that it was more of a "I want to fuck you" tape than a "Here's some music I like" tape, and thus, the next four years of my life were plotted by R.E.M. and Matthew Sweet.

I thought that this book would have those kinds of bits in it, and it would take me back to those glorious days. Not so much, in fact. We find out at the very beginning of the book that Rob Sheffield's young wife is dead, and he is going through her stuff and has unearthed several old mix tapes, and is reminiscing. This fact, while evocative, tends to take the wind out of one's sails if they are expecting a nice, fun read. My opinion has nothing to do with the fact that I don't like marriage, so this guy going on about how wonderful his wife was isn't what bothers me. It's the fact that this book has very little to do with actual mix tapes, but covers in depth how his wife used to sew a lot, and was Southern, and drank Zima(!)-and-Chambords, and (I am not making this up) was getting wider hips as she got older. Hence the sewing, y'see. She could no longer find clothes that fit her, so she sewed her clothes, as I learned, for page after page. Rob, bud, I feel for you, dog, but what does your wife's sewing skills have to do with mix tapes.

Sheffield does cover a lot of music, and as a editor of Rolling Stone, he does have a wealth of knowledge. However, he does it in that way where he seemingly likes everything from every genre. his "mix tapes," which open each chapter, but sometimes don't have much to do with the chapter itself, are filled with completely-out-there choices, like L7 next to some country shit and then Aretha Franklin and then some band called Yaz, who I had never even heard of, but Sheffield apparently loves because I think they are on every tape. I got the impression that he made these tapes and saw fit to tell us about them.simply because he wanted people to know that he knows a lot of songs.

The book never invokes in me that nostalgia I had hoped for when I bought the thing. All it really amounts to is a 220 page love letter to his wife. And while I feel sad that his wife died and am glad he is dealing with it, in the end, all it amounts to is some weird guy-chick-lit combo that doesn't actually do anything except go on about how great his big-hipped wife was. And Chuck Klosterman never did that. I think basically I'm tired of people using pop culture to chatter on about their personal shit. If you really want to read about that, Nick Hornby did it first, and a lot better and was a lot more accessible.

Anyway, sorry for the downer of a review, and don't hate me for getting on this poor widower. I just didn't want anyone making the same mistake I did.

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