Book Review:â€˜Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Timeâ€™ by Rob Sheffield*
April 17, 2008 · Print This Article
By Jennifer B. Kaufman
Just what is love? Philosophers, poets and song writers have been asking that question since the beginning of time. To music journalist Rob Sheffield, love is a mix tape. The author has chronicled the cross section of music and love in his newest book called Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.
Long before people downloaded music into iPods or burned a CD filled with their favorite music, they made mix tapes. Mix tapes were very personal. Not only did they reveal some of our favorite songs, they also revealed our hopes, desires and thoughts. Mix tapes were therapy on a magnetic strip.
Rob Sheffield is no different from every music obsessed Generation X-er. A total music geek, he found solace and a reason for being through his love of music. Starting as a young child, he DJ-ed at school dances, collected albums and tapes like baseball cards and debated the merits of different bands with his friends.
In the late 1980s, Sheffield met Renee. Renee couldnâ€™t have been more different from Rob. He was tall; she was short. He was a shy geek from Boston. Renee was an extroverted Southerner. The only thing these two seemed to have in common was an intense love of music, and it seemed music was all they needed. The two soon fell in love and were married until Reneeâ€™s untimely death from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 31.
Sheffield deftly writes about his all too brief marriage to Renee and he does this with a catalog of different mix tapes he made. Each chapter starts with a different mix tape, complete with the names of songs and artists. Some tapes are for making out, some for dancing and some for falling asleep. Sheffield proves to be no music snob, mixing top-40 guilty pleasure pop with the alternative music of the 1980s and â€˜90s. Each lovingly crafted mix tape conveys an intricate detail of the sometimes loving, sometimes rocky, and all-too-human relationship between two very interesting and complex souls.
Love is a Mix Tape had me riveted. Sheffield is an amazing writer, handling his love of music and his love of Renee with tender loving care. He gives an intimate glimpse into his marriage without revealing too many intimate details. The marriage of Rob and Renee is never conveyed in a way that is too saccharine or maudlin. These are two very real people who seemed to leap off the page. Often when men write about the women in their lives they do it more as a reflection of their own egos rather than writing about these women as three-dimensional human beings. Sheffield does not fall into this trap. I really felt I knew Renee. In fact, I wish I knew Renee. She was an Appalachian Auntie Mame who told her husband to â€œLive, live, live!â€ and tells the reader to do the same.
And even though I began reading Love is a Mix Tape knowing of Reneeâ€™s death, I was still very shocked when it happened. How could this ebullient soul not be cavorting somewhere on the planet? And Sheffieldâ€™s grief was so palpable I felt a dull ache in my heart as he described being a young widower.
I highly recommend Love is Mix Tape to anyone who considers music as vital as breathing and knows only too well the ecstasy and heartbreak true love can bring. Rob Sheffield has written an amazing book. I hope he has more books in him.