Love Is a Mix Tape

Love Is a Mix Tape

In this stunning memoir, Rob Sheffield, a veteran rock and pop culture critic and staff writer for Rolling Stone magazine, tells the story of his musical coming of age, and how rock music, the first love of his life, led him to his second, a girl named Renee. Rob and Renee's life together - they wed after graduate school, both became music journalists, and were married onl...

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Title:Love Is a Mix Tape
Author:Rob Sheffield
Rating:
ISBN:1400083028
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:224 pages

Love Is a Mix Tape Reviews

  • Emilia P
    Aug 26, 2007

    Oh man, shucks.

    I loved this book.

    I could say that the story arc could have been stronger or that he could have talked about mixtapes more (even though he talked about them a lot, I never get sick of it). But I won't. I don't care about those things.

    I care that I basically love this book way too much. There are many reasons.

    1) I am a sucker for exercises in love and grief, which a lot of this book is--his wife died suddenly after they were married for like 5 years, and most of the book is about h

    Oh man, shucks.

    I loved this book.

    I could say that the story arc could have been stronger or that he could have talked about mixtapes more (even though he talked about them a lot, I never get sick of it). But I won't. I don't care about those things.

    I care that I basically love this book way too much. There are many reasons.

    1) I am a sucker for exercises in love and grief, which a lot of this book is--his wife died suddenly after they were married for like 5 years, and most of the book is about how he loves her and music.

    1a)He describes her as this sort of girl that's bouncy and

    adventurous and strong, the kind of girl that I basically

    assume all boys love, and the great thing is, she's a

    real person.

    2) He is an Irish Catholic. This means he talks about being Irish, likes to wash the dishes, and also it means that he thanks the BVM in his acknowledgments. Thats the Blessed Virgin Mary for those of you not in the know. TIGHT.

    3) He has excellent musical taste, by which I mean, really devotedly eclectic. He talks about loving crap pop, and Pavement, and old country music on the radio. Plus, he is talking about a great time in music and mixtapes. At the end of the book, he reflects on how awesome music was during the 90s, because they actually let the indie ppl out to play for a little while. And it's true. Plus some of his mixtape selections made me grin. They include "Don't Worry Baby", "I Can't Make You Love Me", Prince, Liz Phair, Sleater-Kinney's " Little Babies", "Famous Blue Raincoat", and just generally a lot of stuff that reminds me of listening to the radio at about age 14 , which, all told, wasn't such a bad age.

    It may not be your cup of tea, but it sure was mine. Mixtapes forevs.

  • Heather
    Nov 08, 2007

    Love Is A Mix Tape just absolutely knocked my socks off.

    I devoured this book in one weekend and enjoyed every single page, heartily. This is ostensibly a book about mix tapes, and looking back at a life spent seeing the world in a series of 45-minute vignettes (then, of course, you flip the tape over). Rob Sheffield has penned an honest (yet wildly entertaining) book that affected me more deeply than any book I've read in recent memory, woven throughout with a genuine and bleeding love for music

    Love Is A Mix Tape just absolutely knocked my socks off.

    I devoured this book in one weekend and enjoyed every single page, heartily. This is ostensibly a book about mix tapes, and looking back at a life spent seeing the world in a series of 45-minute vignettes (then, of course, you flip the tape over). Rob Sheffield has penned an honest (yet wildly entertaining) book that affected me more deeply than any book I've read in recent memory, woven throughout with a genuine and bleeding love for music. It's electric.

    The meta-theme of the book is great love, great loss, and the soundtrack: his relationship and marriage to Renee, a girl who he says was "in the middle of everything, living her big, messy, epic life, and none of us who loved her will ever catch up with her." Rob loved Renee, and chronicles that here beautifully from their first meeting to her sudden death at 31.

    Parts of the book are evisceratingly intimate. Sometimes I felt almost too close to his darkest and most intimate moments, and it's hard to phrase this right but -- because I knew so much of the music that weaves throughout their stories, I almost felt like I had a personal stake. I kept thinking that it was surprising to find a story so real and honest and intimate when I initially picked this up because, duh, it's about mix tapes.

    If you don't like reading about other people's love stories, you should still 100% read this book. Renee was his muse, but his passion (and hers) is thoroughly and unabashedly music -- and there is some absolutely fantastic stuff in here. He writes of their relationship, "We had nothing in common, except we both loved music. It was the first connection we had, and we depended on it to keep us together. We did a lot of work to meet in the middle. Music brought us together." They were both music writers and radio DJs, they fell in love hard and married young. They made lots and lots of fabulous mix tapes, and each chapter begins with a reprinted tracklist from one cassette from that era in their lives.

    This is a man after my own heart. How could I do anything but love a man who starts chapter 14 with: "Every time I have a crush on a woman, I have the same fantasy: I imagine the two of us as a synth-pop duo." He goes on to elaborate how she is in the front ("tossing her hair, a saucy little firecracker"), stealing the show and he is hidden in the back behind his Roland JP8000 keyboard, "lavishing all my computer blue love on her."He even lists all the best band names he's come up with for their synth-pop duo: Metropolitan Floors, Indulgence, Angela Dust.

    And you should hear him wax poetic about mix tapes. Be still my heart. Rob writes, "There are all kinds of mix tapes. There is always a reason to make one." He then gives his examples:

    The Party Tape

    I Want You

    We're Doing It? Awesome!

    You Like Music, I Like Music, I Can Tell We're Going To Be Friends

    You Broke My Heart And Made Me Cry and Here Are Twenty or Thirty Songs About It

    The Road Trip

    Good Songs From Bad Albums I Never Want To Play Again

    . . . and many more. "There are millions of songs in the world," he writes, "and millions of ways to connect them into mixes. Making the connections is part of the fun of being a fan." The book starts with Sheffield pulling out a box of old tapes and all throughout the book --from his childhood school dance recollections, to the first mixes he can remember making for Renee, to the ones that accompanied him in the dark days and months following her death-- the mix tapes and the songs are as much characters in this story as the actual people are.

    Since each of us have our own completely sovereign and self-focused memories surrounding our favorite bands and favorite songs (the unique feelings, smells, companions, activities associated with them), there is something that I just find so ebullient about "seeing" all these bands and songs through the unique rubric of their lives. A MUST-READ.

  • Rory
    Dec 29, 2007

    I didn't like this as much as others have seemed to. And what I liked most was probably what others discarded--I liked hearing about the signifcance of all the songs and mixes and bands. But the love story? Sap-tastic and hit-me-over-the-head-repetitive.

    Every tenth line of the first long chapter is heavy foreshadowing mixed with hipster melodrama--you know, "That music changed my life. But Renee was my life. And then my life went away." Then something like "Love isn't like a cassingle. It's lik

    I didn't like this as much as others have seemed to. And what I liked most was probably what others discarded--I liked hearing about the signifcance of all the songs and mixes and bands. But the love story? Sap-tastic and hit-me-over-the-head-repetitive.

    Every tenth line of the first long chapter is heavy foreshadowing mixed with hipster melodrama--you know, "That music changed my life. But Renee was my life. And then my life went away." Then something like "Love isn't like a cassingle. It's like a mixed CD. And my and Renee's hearts were mixed with an A and a B side. And then she broke." Or WHATEVER.

    A lot of cutesy little details are repeated throughout the book, too, and I wondered if the book had originally been published as a series of columns (it wasn't, as far as I can tell).

    Finally, just to be a real grouch, the author seems to have a type--he describes all his girlfriends and his beloved (dead? did you hear?) wife the same: from the South, pie-baking, punk-riot, energetic, dyed-red hair, music-loving, extrovert. So I never quite got why Renee stuck out so much.

  • Kim
    Mar 11, 2008

    Put your thinking caps on ‘cuz I’ve got some trippin’ down memory lane for you:

    Where were you when you first heard ‘A Day in the Life’? What about ‘Wild World’? What did you think when you finally understood the meaning of

    ? What does ‘My Heart Will Go On’ mean to you? Do you know whe

    Put your thinking caps on ‘cuz I’ve got some trippin’ down memory lane for you:

    Where were you when you first heard ‘A Day in the Life’? What about ‘Wild World’? What did you think when you finally understood the meaning of

    ? What does ‘My Heart Will Go On’ mean to you? Do you know where you were when you heard that Kurt Cobain was dead? What about that

    from Alice in Chains who wasn’t found for like days, rotting away in his apartment, do you remember that? What was the song that was playing the first time you slow danced? Does ‘Darling Nikki’ make you blush? What’s the most important song that you’ve ever put on a mix tape?

    Okay, enough. You get it. It’s just

    now. Confession time: I was a groupie. I was. Really. Duran Duran was my group of choice. Those bastard fans in Wham! and Culture Club were pussies compared to us Duranies. We knew how to obsess. There is still a bond among us. Whenever I meet a woman born around 1970, I know that I can slip in a

    reference and our eyes will meet and there will be that conspiratorial nod... We know that we both cried when we saw the ‘Feed the World’ video and that they were robbed (ROBBED!) of air time. Damn Bono.

    It wasn’t until I met my future husband that I actually LISTENED to Duran Duran. Those bass lines are awesome! I knew I loved John Taylor for more than his bangs and impeccable fashion sense! I never knew that certain instruments made certain sounds. I was just used to the end product. I’ve been told I’m a sucker for a good ‘bridge’, whatever that means. Maurice was also the first male friend that actually liked Duran Duran and didn’t mock me for my past transgressions. Boys can be so dumb. Don’t you know that we’ll like you more if you admit that you’ve sung along to Rio? Maurice actually brought me to my first Duran Duran show. We sat on the grassy lawn at Great Woods in Mansfield, Mass and rocked to Ordinary World and danced to The Reflex. I was so proud of him. How many boyfriends will do that?

    Okay. So, you see where I‘m going with this, right? I mean it’s so obviously

    .

    I may have been a groupie, but Maurice was a full out audiophile. To the point of annoyance.. We’d be out walking and he’d hear something from an open window somewhere and say ‘Oh! Zeppelin 4! Awesome! Did you know that

    rated it only 66 out of the top 500 albums! What assholes!’ and then a rant would ensue and that would turn into some sort of ‘ultimate band’ fantasy. And so on. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to ask me what I thought about Geddy Lee’s vocals on ‘Caress of Steel’ versus ‘Fly by Night’. He wasn’t embarrassed to go total

    when Bohemian Rhapsody came on while we were driving. My favorite was when we would play ‘who should have been on the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane?’

    On our first date, Maurice ended it, not with a kiss, but a ‘I’m going to make you a mix tape!’ I was amused. I was concerned. I was somewhat petrified. This guy was a prog rock fan. Hadn’t I spent most of my adolescence mocking Rush and Yes? Is this karma taking a bit ol’ dump on me? He mailed me the tape. I was living in Boston at the time, he was in the boondocks of NH. I held it. I read the songs. I put it on my desk. I went out for ice cream. Around day 3, I finally had the room to myself (living in a boarding house with 40 other woman, that was a feat) and carefully placed it in my boom box. The first song was ‘Sweetness’ by Yes. ’Honey Pie’ by The Beatles, ’She’s a Rainbow’ The Rolling Stones, ’Come up and See Me (Make me smile)’ by Duran Duran,

    by Faust, The Musical Box by Genesis:

    Not. Very. Subtle.

    Anyway, this book. This could be Maurice and me. I know that some people dismiss Rob Sheffield and I don’t know enough about him to say that that’s okay. Maurice would probably know… he knew all the rock critics. But, this story… these mix tapes. They spoke to me in a completely sappy selfish way. I see a lot of Maurice in Rob. Another confession: I don’t read the blurbs about books before I start them. If I like the title or the cover or someone said ’You should read this’, I will go with that. I had no idea that this was a sad love story. (Yeah, I know… the title is ‘Love is a Mix Tape: Life and loss, one song at a time’ --I didn’t really catch the loss part. There’s Rob. Then there’s Rob and Renee and then there’s RobinRenee and then there’s just Rob again. There’s a part where he’s talking about just being Rob again:

    I wonder if Maurice ever thought things like

    I know that I did.

    Rob relates almost everything through music. He reminds me a lot of Rob Fleming from Nick Hornby’s

    . The guy that always has headphones on, that totally judges you by your cd collection, that has a song for everything. Maurice was always gently forcing me to like his music. I’m a whiny guitar alternadude type of gal. Play me some REM or Blind Melon or Polyphonic Spree. I would get in the car and find a cd in the player and suddenly I’m listening to Argent’s

    or ‘Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Pt, 1 & 2’ by ELP. This went on for TWENTY years…. He never tired of it. I have milk crates full of Maurice creations. I can identify with these people. I would strike back with some of my own and we would argue during long car rides what was neutral ground. ELP was out. Genesis was neutral. Poi Dog Pondering was out. INXS was neutral and so on…

    I guess that what I’m trying to say is that this book might not be for every one. The minute gestures and pop culture commentary might annoy people. They may not laugh where I laughed or cried when I cried. That’s okay. There are other books. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to read this one. I feel less alone and that’s a biggie for me.

    I can’t think of a truer sentiment. Maurice is the Smashing Pumpkins ‘1979’ when I’m driving on a warm spring night with the windows down. He’s Nanci Griffith’s

    when I’m having a good cry in the tub. He’s Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name Of’ when I’m annoyed with hipsters. It sounds corny, but he gave me this gift and I’m so proud of him and so thankful.

    I miss you, Maurice.

  • Bryan
    Mar 12, 2008

    I really wanted to like this book, despite my mild dislike for Sheffield's writing in Rolling Stone magazine. While the story is heartbreaking -- he becomes a widower earlier than anyone should be allowed to -- I was expecting much more insight than what's provided in this slim tome (I read it in one sitting.)

    The story boils down to this -- music nerd from Boston meets awesome Appalachian girl who is everything he isn't. You know where the story is heading after he is instantly smitten when she

    I really wanted to like this book, despite my mild dislike for Sheffield's writing in Rolling Stone magazine. While the story is heartbreaking -- he becomes a widower earlier than anyone should be allowed to -- I was expecting much more insight than what's provided in this slim tome (I read it in one sitting.)

    The story boils down to this -- music nerd from Boston meets awesome Appalachian girl who is everything he isn't. You know where the story is heading after he is instantly smitten when she is the only other person in a University of Virginia bar to recognize that Big Star's second album is playing.

    They make a connection and later, much to his surprise, they fall in love and get married. After his wife is tragically taken away from him he spends the final half of the book telling the reader over and over to the point of irritation how awesome his wife was.

    While each chapter begins with a playlist of a mix tape he or his wife had made, Sheffield doesn't write enough about the songs on the tapes. Why did he select certain songs over others? What makes a good tape. For a man who made tapes for such mundane chores as washing the dishes and walking the dogs, it's a cop-out not to write about the music itself. Of course, that may not be a bad thing. You would think that someone who writes for Rolling Stone would have high standards for determining what makes a good song. Not Sheffield. To him, all music is great, from the Replacements to Journey to the J. Geils Band. Makes you wonder how he wound up writing for a national magazine. Unfortunately we never learn because Sheffield is too busy telling how awesome his wife was. I wanted at least some idea of how he climbed out of his grief to become a columnist for one of the most storied music magazines in the country.

    Sheffield likes to liberally sprinkle his writing with pop culture references as a way to show cool and ironic he is, and this book is no exception. While sometimes the references make you smile, most of the time they come off like the junior high social outcast who tries to show how hip he is by making jokes about the Dukes of Hazzard or Star Trek.

  • Diane
    Jul 31, 2009

    I fell head-over-heels in love with this book, just as Rob Sheffield fell hard and fast when he met Renee. The book is their love story, but it's also a love story about music. Each chapter opens with the song list from a mix tape Rob either made or received. It was fun to skim the titles, looking for tracks I had used in my own mix tapes.

    One of my favorite chapters was when Rob got picked to play the music at his junior high dance. He screwed up big time. He filled his tape with power anthems,

    I fell head-over-heels in love with this book, just as Rob Sheffield fell hard and fast when he met Renee. The book is their love story, but it's also a love story about music. Each chapter opens with the song list from a mix tape Rob either made or received. It was fun to skim the titles, looking for tracks I had used in my own mix tapes.

    One of my favorite chapters was when Rob got picked to play the music at his junior high dance. He screwed up big time. He filled his tape with power anthems, which the boys loved, but the girls hated them and wouldn't dance. He said he still had a lot to learn about women.

    Both Rob and Renee were radio DJs and music writers, and he admits the only thing they had in common was music. Rob even wooed Renee by making her a mix tape, which is included in one of the chapters.

    I expected this book to be sad because Rob warns us early that his wife died of a pulmonary embolism after only five years of marriage, but the book is very funny and sweet, with only one chapter that was a real tearjerker.

    By the end, I wished I could have met Renee, who sounds like a firecracker of a Southern gal. But at least I got to hear about her favorite music, which is as close to meeting someone as you can get.

    Sheffield has a new book out about his life after his wife died, and it reminded me how much I had loved this memoir. I was glad I gave it five stars when I first read it because I remember it so fondly that I would have been forced to increase it if it wasn't already there. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves music, memoirs or love stories.

  • Buggy
    Jan 09, 2010

    Opening line:

    Before I-pods and ripped CDs we all made mix tapes. I'm sure most of us over a certain age still have them safely hidden away somewhere, never quite having had the nerve to throw them out (broken cases and all) We named these tapes, gave them away to friends or lovers and assigned them different purposes. Remember the break-up tape, the I'm so infatuated with you t

    Opening line:

    Before I-pods and ripped CDs we all made mix tapes. I'm sure most of us over a certain age still have them safely hidden away somewhere, never quite having had the nerve to throw them out (broken cases and all) We named these tapes, gave them away to friends or lovers and assigned them different purposes. Remember the break-up tape, the I'm so infatuated with you tape, the party tape, workout tape, road trip tape, stolen off the radio tape etc, etc. It took hours to create a mix tape, attempting to get the songs in perfect order without cutting off the last one.

    Now imagine, nearly 20 years later having the courage to scour through and listen to all those tapes again. The joy of rediscovery, the nostalgia, the OMG I forgot all about that song which reminds me of that party/girl/boy/car moment. You might also experience pain or sadness over that long lost love. Well this is what LOVE IS A MIX TAPE is all about.

    I absolutely adored this book. Rob Sheffield style of writing is so honest, natural and funny that you'll feel like your talking with an old friend. He manages too capture the spirit of the 90's perfectly too as he tells a moving autobiographical account of his years spent with wife Renee. Anyone who lived through that time and is into pop culture will find something relatable here.

    This is also a tragic love story and on the very first page we learn that Renee has died, we just don't know how or why. We then flash back to the time to before they met as Rob experiences an awkward adolescence and discovers his love of Indie rock. One night Rob meets the sweet Southern girl of his dreams and although only 25 they soon marry. It's not a perfect marriage however; they're broke most of the time, they fight, they get a dog, they drink Zima (remember Zima?) but they always listen to music as one. Rob and Renee ultimately get 7 years together and even though I knew that Renee was going to die when it actually happened I was left stunned. Sheffield depicts the ache of new love and utter helplessness of losing it beautifully and following Rob through the next grief stricken chapters was at times hard to take.

    Throughout this story it is always about the music and each chapter begins with a dated mix tape complete with side A/B track listings. Some of the tapes were made by Renee others by Rob but you're sure to have a lot of moments remembering your own life's soundtrack as you journey along with the music. You might even find a couple of new favourites. Cheers.

  • JSou
    Feb 04, 2010

    I didn't really know what this book was about until I started flipping through it last night. I bought it as a last minute, bargain priced add-on from Barnes & Noble, pretty much just to bump up my total to $25 so I could get free shipping. The title caught my eye since making mixtapes took up a lot of time during my teenage years. Seriously, when the iPod was first introduced, I thought it was the greatest invention since the automobile.

    Anyway, I was expecting this to be a humorous, dick-li

    I didn't really know what this book was about until I started flipping through it last night. I bought it as a last minute, bargain priced add-on from Barnes & Noble, pretty much just to bump up my total to $25 so I could get free shipping. The title caught my eye since making mixtapes took up a lot of time during my teenage years. Seriously, when the iPod was first introduced, I thought it was the greatest invention since the automobile.

    Anyway, I was expecting this to be a humorous, dick-lit type novel, having no idea that Sheffield wrote this memoir after his wife of only 5 years passed away. I read the first page, just to get a feel for it, and didn't put it down until I finished. It was a very quick read, but I loved it. There were parts that I had stinging eyes and a lump in my throat, but was laughing out loud at the same time. The references to nineties music, even the whole nineties era were hilarious, and the chapter on Nirvana was some of the best writing on Kurt Cobain's life and death that I've ever read.

    I love how Sheffield pointed out how strong an effect music can have on us, especially when dealing with losing someone you love. There's the times when even a favorite song is ruined because hearing it is just too painful...it just makes the situation too

    . Other times, it's hearing a new song that you know that person would totally flip for, but knowing they'll never be able to hear it.

    I think anyone who loves music, lived through the nineties, or has ever lost someone would really enjoy this. I know it was well worth the whopping $3.99 I paid for it.

  • RandomAnthony
    Mar 28, 2011

    How come, when most authors write about music, they write as if they're trying to sound like scholars of the Pitchfork generation? And how did Rob Sheffield know he should skip all that and write a great book about the intersection of music, tragedy, and everyday existence?

    is Mr. Sheffield's account of his marriage, wife's death, and the role music played in their lives. The couple were one of those with a musical cute meet (Big Star related, even) and a shared Pavement fanati

    How come, when most authors write about music, they write as if they're trying to sound like scholars of the Pitchfork generation? And how did Rob Sheffield know he should skip all that and write a great book about the intersection of music, tragedy, and everyday existence?

    is Mr. Sheffield's account of his marriage, wife's death, and the role music played in their lives. The couple were one of those with a musical cute meet (Big Star related, even) and a shared Pavement fanaticism. This book could have gone downhill

    quickly. But Mr. Sheffield manages to walk the line between false humility and rock critic verbiage because he sounds, well, like he's talking in a normal voice, very slowly and carefully, about his history. He seems like the kind of person who accessed music to mediate his interactions, so when he gets a girlfriend, gets married, and loses his wife, he contextualizes events and emotions around the music that's playing and the songs passing through his mind. The music and narrative intertwine and emerge raw and heartfelt (and I don't like the word “heartfelt” but the word fits). I hope Mr. Sheffield felt better after he wrote this book because he takes serious, honest risks when, for example, he considers whether or not he should use the word “widow” or when he describes how he reads at Applebee's because he knows he won't run into any friends at mall restaurants.

    Sheffield writes like Chuck Klosterman's shy friend at the bar, the one who interjects a comment here and there but doesn't need to dominate the conversation. I'm not surprised Klosterman praises this book on the back jacket; fans of one author most likely are/would be fans of the other. My only problem with

    surfaced near the text's end; Sheffield wraps up the narrative too quickly, in my eyes, out of nowhere. But I have new respect for Mr. Sheffield, who I only knew previously from VH-1 list shows (e.g. “40 Top One Hit Wonders”). Sheffield gets the fan's quieter, more personal relationship with music, the kind that gathers most of its power when no one is around, or when only one other person is around and the experience is shared as a manifestation of trust and love.

    captures this state in surprising, meaningful ways.

  • Madeleine
    Jul 01, 2011

    I started reading this book during the two-day buffer between the beginnings of both 2012 proper and the working year, thinking that I’d have to look no farther than the other end of the couch if the story really destroyed me to the point of needing my myriad mostly-under-control-but-always-threatening-to-surface spousal fears allayed by husbandly hugs. Turns out, catching up on laundry and tidying up our soon-to-be-vacated first home ate into my reading time and I wound up finishing this about

    I started reading this book during the two-day buffer between the beginnings of both 2012 proper and the working year, thinking that I’d have to look no farther than the other end of the couch if the story really destroyed me to the point of needing my myriad mostly-under-control-but-always-threatening-to-surface spousal fears allayed by husbandly hugs. Turns out, catching up on laundry and tidying up our soon-to-be-vacated first home ate into my reading time and I wound up finishing this about an hour after hubs left for work. (Luckily, this book wasn't the sob-fest I was fearing, which is a huge point for the "pro" column.)

    But you know what? That lost solitary reading time was put to good use. Hubs and I giggled our way through the brutal minute-long walk to the laundry room, encountered a comedy of errors while corralling our smallclothes and turned vacuuming into a contact sport. And I think that, more than actually sitting down with “Love is a Mix Tape,” helped drive home the unspoken point of the book, which is that you never know how much time you'll have with someone so you'd better make the most of the present.

    Every time I’ve seen Rob Scheffield waxing eloquent about music on television, he always seems to have this goofy grin and be a generally amiable person, an image which I’m sure is aided by how

    pretentious he is about the music he loves (that's admittedly foreign territory to me). We can all agree that a personable demeanor is unusual for a rock critic and an avid connoisseur of music, right? Because you should believe everything you see on TV, I assumed he was a happy-go-lucky dude who just truly loves and is animated by music. So imagine my surprise when I realized there’s a heart-rending tale under all of that.

    This isn’t a prettied-up-for-mass-consumption account of an individual's personal tragedy that is just, like, so super unique and deserving of publication because the author said so, thank God. It’s about Rob. It’s about other things, too, of course – music being chief among them – but mostly how they’ve left distinct and indelible marks on Rob’s persona. Renee gets a lot of mention, but she’s a living, thriving presence for most of the book. The reader wouldn’t get the full extent of the things that made Renee so magnetic if this was another pity-party strutting its stuff for affirmations of the author’s suffering. Instead, Rob displays enough of his late wife’s traits and habits to make us understand her without betraying all of her secrets. We see Renee through Rob’s eyes: She’s flawed but good-hearted, quirky but grounded, an individual who’s bubbling over with life.

    It is so obvious that Rob is still smitten with Renee and probably has been since their first encounter. And it’s obvious that his love is motivated by who she is as a whole rather than what she represents to him. For someone with so little relationship experience, like Rob, that kind of selflessness is nigh impossible to either understand or execute. But you can tell that this boy is just wild about his girl by the way she’s framed within the book.

    A memoir like this should be more of a tribute and less of a fishbowl therapy session, and it should exist to deliver a message rather than parade the author's personal tragedies in morbid self-congratulation; thankfully, this one rises above the usual credibility-killing narcissistic pitfalls. There are no excessive displays of grief and Rob doesn't rely on his wife's death as the storytelling vehicle, as either would be disrespectful to Rob and Renee’s short-lived union. Rob mourns his wife, of course, accepts that he’ll never be rewarded for dealing with his widower status by getting to have Renee back, and spends an appropriate amount of time in the fetal position, but he does so with dignity. He doesn’t want to wallow in self pity or spend night after lonely night in a cemetery because to do so would be to succumb to a dismissal of Renee’s

    , which was clearly one of her defining attributes.

    There were definite divisions marking life before, during and after Renee, which certainly helped the story find a universally applicable element, but it’s Rob’s love of music that gives this books its strongest framework. Just like there was life with and without Renee, there’s music before and after Renee, too. For every milestone, be it as a child or a grieving adult, there’s a song or album or band to serve as the soundtrack. What is music’s greatest purpose if not to act as a personalized landscape for each individual, after all?

    As someone who went through a rabidly elitist phase of music consumption (a phase that has, fortunately, waned over the years but still needs to assert its lingering presence at the least appropriate times) and is drawn to those who’ve traveled a similar path, I feel pretty confident in saying that the least musically talented music aficionados aren’t the most accepting folks. It’s easy to scoff at pop music and the bands who create it but Rob doesn’t fall victim to this. He admits to secretly loving some disco ditties as a teenager and accepts his phases of enjoying some truly craptastic tunes. The mix tapes’ track listings that open each chapter illustrate that he never really let go of that open-mindedness, which make his honesty and vulnerability regarding other facets of his life that much more credible. He doesn’t limit himself to the music that’s peripherally cool or only listen to what the radio spoon-feeds him, which, to me, demonstrated an unabashed affinity for all music, much to his credit.

    One of the points that Rob subtly made was that when two people are just as sick about music as they are about each other, music gradually becomes a third entity in the relationship. Having that life raft of shared music (and, later, music he wishes he could share with Renee) is what kept the intimacy of his late wife close and, as I saw it, kept Rob from totally coming unglued. It always seemed like he knew he’d soldier on without his other half, but music seemed to be what kept propelling him forward, however stumblingly or reluctantly.

    Music does emerge as the real hero and great unifier when it comes to the crux of the story, though the quiet messages of human kindness and self-discovery serve as its moral. I held myself together through Rob’s accounts of Renee’s death and funeral and his mourning period; what finally pierced my groggy heart was Rob’s awe over complete strangers’ acts of kindness toward him. I’m a sucker for the moment the veil of cynicism is lifted (probably because I’m pretty certain humanity comprises a bunch of selfish jerks and, therefore, get all warm and gooey when someone can convince me otherwise for a little while), and Rob’s realization that he can’t go back to his former skepticism over the goodness of people was a defining moment of the story. Yes, there is some goodness in the world: It just took a world-shattering tragedy for Rob to gain some firsthand knowledge of it. Human kindness helped him to move on while pointing out the places where some silver lining is peeking through.

    It is hard to write about a loved one’s sudden death without summoning every cheaply sentimental cop-out to prey on the audience’s emotions, so Rob gets all kinds of kudos for offering up a good read rather than a cloying trick. This is a beautiful remembrance of a well-loved someone while doubling as a love letter to the music that will always be there through the highest highs, lowest lows and every small moment or long car ride between.