24 October 2008

A Heartbreaking Work

I just wrapped up the last few pages of Rob Sheffield's "Love is a Mix Tape" and I gotta say, it's got me feeling sad and blue. I don't know why I never read the thing -- what a great title -- or ever spent more than twenty seconds flipping pages but the book is amazing. I guess I avoided it because I thought it was all about music and when I looked at the mix tape songs that introduced each chapter, it was all music I'd never heard of or didn't really like.

What I didn't realize was that the title was absolutely literal. Rob's mix tapes are all about love and more specifically, love for his wife, who died tragically a few years after they got married. Sheffield's writing is very intimate and poignant and his thoughts on falling hopelessly and madly in love, and then losing that love would hit close to home for anyone. Plus the way he talks about music is outstanding (he's a music journalist), even though I didn't know 90% of the songs he was referencing.

Seriously, this book was sad sad sad but in a breathtaking wonderful way and I'm delighted to have read it. It's like unbearably heavy and light at the same time. Here's an excerpt where he describes his wife, Renee.

"Girls take up a lot of room. I had a lot of room for this one. She had more energy than anybody I'd ever met. She was in love with the world. She was warm and loud and impulsive. One day, she announced she had found the guitar of her dreams at a local junk shop. I said, 'You don't even play the guitar.'

She said, 'This is the guitar that's gonna teach me.'

Unlike me, Renee was not shy; she was a real people-pleaser. She worried way too much about what people thought of her, wore her heart on her sleeve, expected too much from people, and got hurt too easily. She kept other people's secrets like a champ, but told her own too fast. She expected the world not to cheat her and was always surprised when it did. She was finishing her MFA in fiction, and was always working on stories and novels. She had more ideas than she had time to finish. She loved to get up early in the morning. She loved to talk about wild things she wanted to do in the future.

She'd never gone two weeks without a boyfriend since she was fifteen. (Two weeks? I could do a year standing on my head.) Before she met me, her wish list for the next boyfriend had contained three items: older than her (I failed that one), rural (that one, too), and no facial hair (I would have needed six months' notice to slap an acceptable sideburn together)."
-Love is a Mix Tape-