Jana is our industry insider with a head full of music – her picks are always themed accordingly, and open a new look on the truly tune-obsessed.
Jana is, you should know, just about the definition of fabulous. She’d be gorgeous anyhow, with floaty hair, a sweet smile, and soulful eyes, but it’s really her personality that lights the room and animates her so fantastically. Her smile is wide and frequent, even in rough times, and her eyes sparkle and glow with humour, mischief, and intelligence. Jana is also amazing, and has weathered out some hard things these past few years with grace and strength that has made me proud and impressed on a whole different level. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t just love her.
Jana hosted at Julie’s house this month, so between these two, you know the hosting was lovely. And the book?
Love is a Mix Tape
by Rob Sheffield
ISBN: 978 1 4000 8303 9
Audience: adult or older teens
This is a book about meeting the person you love, about the great times, and about coping with the enormity of loss after a sudden death – but somehow, this is not depressing. Not at all.
Sheffield starts out talking about his young life, setting scenes and moods brilliantly with track listings from mix tapes he’s made at different points (see the image below for an example). By the time he meets Renee, it’s the early 90s, and for many of us, the music and the exciting times he talks about are familiar, being the backdrops of our own early adulthood.
The chapters about their life together are wonderful, a beautiful tribute to her and a way of sharing what a force of nature she was with a wider audience. This is really the heart of the book, but when she dies suddenly of a brain embolism that no one saw coming, the book takes a left turn into a memoir not only of love, but also of loss. The next few chapters are about grief, about the strange new land of home and life without Renee, about the love and help of friends and family and even of strangers, and eventually, about deciding to make a fresh start.
These chapters, sad as they are, though, never feel like wallowing in grief, for although he certainly took time to grieve, by the time of writing, it is clear that much of this has been processed, and Sheffield manages to tell it with just enough distance to make us see the emotion without drowning the narrative in it. Instead, he continues to create atmosphere beautifully as he walks through the stages of the aftermath, and tells us what it was to be the young, unwilling widow(er?) of someone as major as Renee.
There was a little divide in the group as to whether this book was sad, though – some felt it was sadder than others, certainly. There was also a fair bit of concensus (except for our music guru, J) that the songs chosen for the tapes were in many cases pretty obscure. I loved the way he played with lyrics in his writing, though, using a song to say what he wanted to say or spelling out the lyrics in a way that made them apply sarcastically to his situation. His writing has a playful quality that way, dropping in many small references to bands and songs – and that’s just the ones I got. I think the joy of those little treats also helped relieve the potential for heaviness in the book, and I really, really enjoyed it. Now I can’t wait to read his other book, Talking to Girls about Duran Duran.
Also available as an ebook.