I read Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield and loved, loved it. It was a sweet, heartbreaking sonnet to his late wife who died suddenly and much too young. Even if I didn’t know the music he was referring to as he memorialized their relationship through songs, I didn’t have to because the writing and the message took over.
I was hoping Talking to Girls about Duran Duran would give me the same feeling. This book is another memoir and it takes a peek insides Rob’s life during the ‘80s. Each chapter relates his experiences to a song/artist – Pat Benatar, Flock of Seagulls, Prince, etc - during a year of the decade. While his writing is still great and his self-deprecating humor still funny, I just couldn’t relate to this book very much. I found myself skimming chapters that meant little to me.
Now, this is not Sheffield’s fault. Once again, the writing is great, I was just born too late to appreciate his musings. Sheffield loved all kinds of music and most of it I’ve never heard of, or had no way of picking out the tune in my head. But, a few of the themes he focused on did resonate with me. I loved his relationship with his younger sisters. You can tell Sheffield learned a lot from these women while growing up, and I can guarantee that’s why he turned out sensitive, respectful and thoughtful. I also understand the way certain songs can stick with you and remind you of certain moments in time – though, I think a memoir about growing up in the ‘90s might hit closer to home with me. The chapter on his relationship with his grandfather was also super sweet. Plus, many of these years coincided with his teenage angst - sitting in his room alone listening to the radio and thinking about life and love - which we've all been through no matter what decade.
Funnily enough, the chapter about the New Kids on the Block (my Duran Duran – the band that all the girls loved and the boys hated and that, while no longer popular, I will defend to the grave my past love for) song Hangin’ Tough was actually the one I could relate to most. Sheffield talks about being 23 and his sister being 13 and the two of them creating mixed tapes for each other. He’d give her tapes with Depeche Mode and she give back something she was most interested it. Make my brother Sheffield and me his sister, same age difference, same music (my brother actually sent me a mix tape with Depeche Mode and I returned with Garth Brooks; I think we both didn't "get" the other's love, but we still shared and created the memory). I was nodding my head and remembering back fondly.
So, if you were a music-loving teenager or early-20-something during the ‘80s, you’ll probably love this book. Or, if you’re just a huge music fan, you could too. I’m just not quite the right demographic to love this book, though I definitely appreciate its sentiment.