Book Review: Love Is a Mix Tape

Book Review: Love Is a Mix Tape

I’m halfway through the book, Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time. It was an impulse purchase made as we stood in the check out line at Powell’s this weekend. We already had scads of books in our basket, but given that Bryan and I had just had a conversation in the car about the book I’m writing and whether he thought it was stupid for me to write about the impact of music in my life, we just HAD to check it out.

And it has turned out to be a gem.

Rob Sheffield, who now writes for Rolling Stone, is a lover of music and master at making mix tapes. In fact, when he was thirteen he ran for student counsel JUST so he could be on the Event Planning committee JUST so he could be put in charge of making mix tapes for the school dance.

“I believe that when you’re making a mix, you’re making history,” he writes. “You ransack the vaults, you haul off all the junk you can carry, and you rewire all your ill-gotten loot into something new. You go through an artist’s entire career, zero in on that one moment that makes you want to jump and dance and smoke bats and bite the heads off drugs. And then you play that one moment over and over. A mix tape steals these moments from all over the musical cosmos, and splices them into a whole new groove.”

After giving a brief run down of mix tapes in general – the party tape, the i-want-you tape, the make-out tape, the friendship tape, and the road trip tape, among others – he uses the songs from fifteen different mix tapes he’s made or been given to tell the story of his time with Renee, a woman he loved and lost.

This memoir is funny, and beautiful, and tragic, and so easy to identify with, both musically and on a personal level.

The question I had asked Bryan in the car was whether he thought it was possible to write about the soundtrack of my life without being cheesy. His answer was – as it typically is – It could be a really great idea, or it could really suck. When he read the inside jacket of this book he said, This is a really cool way to write about music.

If you are a freak about making mix tapes as I am, you will eat this book up. I highly recommend it.

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