“Tapes for making out, tapes for dancing, tapes for falling asleep. Tapes for doing the dishes, for walking the dog.”
Mixtapes. Tapes. Cassettes. Mixtapes for all fragments of life. A love story. A love story between two insane music junkies. Who are weirdos. A memoir on all those wonderful things. By a writer with an interesting and elegant sense of humour (despite the undeniable, but scarce, showy-offy moments).
So what has gone wrong?
Well, it’s all been written before. And flawlessly too.
Love Is A Mixtape sounds like exactly the type of book that I could fall in love with, so I really really wanted to like it, but both its topic and writing style make it impossible to avoid the comparison to the colossal novel that is High Fidelity , to which it just falls a lot short, unfortunately.
Rob Sheffield writes for Rolling Stone magazine, so never mind what anyone might have to say about his writing skills (which are fine by the way), there should be no denying that he lives and breathes music (and gets paid for it.. lucky bastard!). However, this is exactly where the book falls short; the music element. Ironically.
Every chapter in this book begins with the playlist of a cassettte that Rob Sheffield had made in the past, often together with his wife Renee, but for the most part this admittedly brilliant idea gets totally wasted, because there doesn’t seem to be any connection of the mixtape to the actual chapter whatsoever. Why did he choose Yo La Tengo? Why this song? Why is it being followed by a Ray Charles song? We don’t know. He doesn’t say. And for a man who has, allegedly, elevated the mixtaping concept to the status of creating everyday art, and who, in addition, addresses music junkies who also read (but who, let me say it again, are MUSIC JUNKIES), he gets us junkies caught up in several unnecessary WTF Rob moments.
WTF Rob Sheffield? Rob Fleming is fictional. He isn’t even real. And his awkwardness and music geekiness felt a lot more believable and a lot more relatable than that of an existing music weirdo?? Not a good sign mate.
And then there’s the pop-rock / indie culture references thingy. Sometimes they made me smile, sometimes they made me go “I could have said that!”, but some other times they came off a bit “It is I, Rob Sheffield, who discovered Pavement first, alright? And I don’t care if that makes me sound 15. It is I.” And those times I’d almost sigh and whisper “Ok, it is you. Now shut up and let me enjoy your book, which other than that is actually a good book.”
On the plus side, Love Is A Mixtape is also a bittersweet chronicle of love and grief and loss. And in this respect, it’s heartbreaking. Rob Sheffield’s insight to his relationship with Renne feels real. It is moving and it made me want to be his friend. It’s true that there was nothing spectacularly memorable about this story, but it did feel as if it was written out of need.
Also, with the exception of those few music references that felt a little forced, his writing is conversational, warm and humorous.
“Nothing connects to the moment like music. I count on the music to bring me back—or, more precisely, to bring her forward.”
That’s fantastic Rob. I’ve always thought that love IS a mixtape too. Because how can it not be?
In fact, it seems that all of my life is a mesh of mixtapes so far. Mixtapes for teenage love, for parties, for painful break ups, for girls’ nights out, mixtapes for jogging (lame, but true), for READING (you bet – although I’m going for full albums now), mixtapes for my best friends with songs I’m hoping they’re not aware of but they’ll like, mixtapes for gloomy mornings at home with 700 cups of hot coffee, mixtapes to keep my travel memories alive, mixtapes for the sake of mixing songs.
It’s just that when you finally come across another fellow mixtape romantic, the expectations can’t be modest Rob. I’m sure you of all people understand.