I read these books out of order, but I previously enjoyed Rob Sheffield’s Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, his memoir of life growing up in the 1980s and 1990s told through the music of that era. This book is similar with several mix tapes providing the frame from which each chapter is built and is filled with observations about music not from a dispassionate critic, but from a fan who sees music intersecting with every aspect of human life. I particularly like his insight into the last recordings of Kurt Cobain displaying the worries of being a husband and father. But the central point of this book is Sheffield’s relationship with Renee, his first wife who died of an embolism in 1997. The book marinates in honesty as Sheffield details the sometimes tempestuous nature of their relationship and later the overwhelming grief at finding himself a young widower. Sheffield is a talented writer and the fact that this book actually made me laugh more than I cried is a testament to his skill.
“I have built my entire life around loving music, and I surround myself with it. I’m always racing to catch up on my new favorite song. But I never stop playing my mixes. Every fan makes them. The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with — nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life.”
“It’s the same with people who say, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Even people who say this must realize that the exact opposite is true. What doesn’t kill you maims you, cripples you, leaves you weak, makes you whiny and full of yourself at the same time. The more pain, the more pompous you get. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you incredibly annoying.”
Recommended books: Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
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