... which is why I pretty much thought that Love is a Mix Tape would bore me to tears. This memoir, by Rob Sheffield -- a contributing editor at Rolling Stone -- is subtitled Life and Loss One Song at a Time. Describing the mix tapes he and his wife Renee created for one another during their courtship and brief life together, Rob explains why the mix tape seems inextricably entwined with romance (good and gone bad) and -- in particular -- how music shaped his and Renee's lives ... and then his alone when she died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism.
To my surprise, I was completely rapt, listening to this. I think it's safe to say that Rob and I have nothing in common. I'm generally not a music listener -- although I recognized some (very few) of the 80s bands and songs that went on his mix tapes -- but since he was really writing about more universal themes, this simply didn't matter. I was decorating my Christmas tree while listening to this, and when Renee dies and Rob figures out how to go on (or truly, how he pretty much can't go on for a while) ... well, I had to take a few moments ... just to listen.
Rob is reading his own book, which is -- in my experience -- generally not a good idea. At first, he just came across as too casual and unprofessional, but then he starts telling this funny story about preparing the mix tape for his 8th grade dance (if the girls don't want to dance to the music, it's not good music for the dance), and I realize that his geeky persona is just the ticket. I really enjoyed this -- another book that I picked up protestingly in the course of this year's listening, and surprised myself with. (What is the What and On the Road are two others.)
But, will teens like this? That is the question. I think they'll really enjoy the beginning -- when Rob relates his early attempts at creating mix tapes. But when he and Renee are settling into married life, and then when he faces his life without her, I'm not sure they'll stick with him. In the end, this memoir isn't really about music, it's about well ... life and loss. Two kind of adult themes. I'm glad it was nominated, it'll be a good discussion.
Why though, did Random House (the grown-up's Listening Library -- a sophisticated and professional publisher of audiobooks) not include any music on this? Copyrights and permissions, probably (sigh). Each chapter begins with the name of the mix tape and a recitation of the artists and songs on each side. It would have been just great to have some of the music from the first song playing under Rob's reading. Instead, generic (to my ears, perhaps a more sophisticated listener would know the music) rock and roll plays at the very beginning and end of the book.
Speaking of iPods ... I've asked Santa for one this Christmas, but I need to make sure that I get one that will take downloadable books from Library2Go. My geeky friend Peter says that of course the iPod will do this, but he is WRONG!