Saturday, September 22, 2012

Love is a Mix Tape


This is probably obvious, but I'm back to reading alot lately.

Part of this is because I have a new crop of books to read, from the Bull Moose store near Mike's place, selling all matter of pre-owned books (I call it Bull Moose, and Mike corrects me every time: it's Bull MOOSE he says. I can't get the hang of it. So goes many of our Canadian vs. American pronunciation conversations).  After the Diving Bell book, which so thoroughly chagrined me in forcing me to admit I take this life and all the things in it scathingly for granted most times, I dove directly into this "Love is a Mix Tape" book.  I finished it this morning, after staying up way too late the last two nights, to keep reading.
 It's a quirky, laid-bare type of read in that it doesn't spare you--the writer's pain at the loss of his wife, early in their young marriage, is as raw as it gets. That it takes place with a backdrop of music--a series (read: shoeboxes full and fuller) of mix-tapes, those love-letters of yesterday, before their were MP3's, Ipods, and CD's (the author, rightfully so, does allow that mixed CD's are permissible, too, once they arrived. But he does make a good point--part of the romance of the mix-tape is it's flawed glory. Taping something off of the radio, or off another tape, is an inexact science. Or maybe just a lost art.)

The book is about music, but it's also a tribute to the decade that was the nineties, a precarious decade for me, it being the first of my adult life. It's the decade of all those big life experiences, the ones that end your adolescence and find you out of high school, maybe in some type of post-secondary education, or landing your first "real" job (but I argue, truly, this: All jobs are real. Some are just realer than others). And for me, and for the writer, at least partially, the nineties were that decade. Remember; there was no internet yet (or if there was, it was a bare whisper of what it's grown into). Nobody had a cell phone glued to their ear, or their palm, texting furiously about something that is really nothing.

We (the collective, North American 'we') were in the grips of a long, wintry recession. No, really, we were, remember? Graduating from high school, college, or university, in this decade was tough going. I know that it's tough now, too. But back then: Generation Xers were doomed to accept positions as Starbucks baristas, and be grateful to have that. It was scary, and there was no 'new world' of shiny blogging, photographs on Instagram, an Iphone to let you record your doubt and misery.
You just had to face it head-on.

So the book is about music, and the nineties as a decade, and it's about Sheffield's marriage and early-widow-hood, and the grief of that. Mix-tape labels headline each chapter, and as a musical couple, (they were both radio DJ's at one point, and Sheffield writes, now, for Rolling Stone) their tastes were broad, varied, and decidedly un-snobbish. There is great rock-n-roll, there is of course all matter of grunge, but there is also guilty-pleasure pop, one-hit wonder bands, and classic country (I knew none of those references). The last third of the book is Sheffield's unprepared grief at losing his wife. It's almost unbearable, but the one thing he still manages to do is listen to music. It is, really, the only thing he can do, for a period of almost two years. It's great writing. He can even inject humour into some of the saddest situations, and I did find myself, several times, laughing aloud, even as I turned the page and found myself crying at his next turn-of-phrase.

I think this was my favourite line in the book, and it summed it up for me, and mabye for the writer as well, on how individual our beliefs are about death, and what happens when it happens, which of course, we don't know. It might be tailored to each person, but I love what he says here:

"....and sometimes I think, man, all the people I get to hear this song with, we're going to miss each other when we die.  When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other."

I want this idea. I love this idea. I leave you with this idea, and your own idea, you know, we all have one, as much as some of us may profess to 'not believing in all that stuff'
You believe. Even your non-belief proves this.

Happy Saturday...

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