So I went up to New Dominion this week to order Happiness: A History, and, as usual, I wound up with a stack of other books. One of them was Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield; the cover looked cute, and I'm a sucker for a memoir.
The book, which is structured around various mix tapes, is about Sheffield's five-year marriage to Renée Crist, her sudden death, and his life after becoming widowed. There are definitely some lines in there that made me stop and reread, so lovely were they. ("You lose a certain kind of innocence when you experience this type of kindness. You lose your right to be a jaded cynic. You can no longer go back through the looking glass and pretend not to know what you know about kindness. It's a defeat, in a way.")
It's a good read in its own right, but for me, it was also sort of strange palimpsest of a book, too. It takes place in Charlottesville in the early- to mid-nineties. What Sheffield writes about--up until Renée's death--is the same stuff that I lived through. I knew some of the same people, I went to the same clubs, Brandon and I would drive around the same country roads with the music on, for lack of anything better to do. I found out later (because it's the sort of book that triggers my why-you-gotta-end-it? impulse) that Renée, under the pseudonym Jo Cline, was the music critic for the same paper I worked for.
I recently found a box of letters from my first year of college that I didn't know I had. There were ones from my parents, ones from my high school friends, a particularly cheesy Christmas card from a guy, and others, including an unsigned one. I have no idea who penned it. Reading Love Is a Mix Tape was sort of like looking through that box. The Charlottesville of the mid-nineties doesn't exist anymore, any more than eighteen-year-old me does, but it's sort of mind-blowing that reading can still conjure up what it felt like then.
So, Charlottesvillians. I'm going to be at two events in the city here in May, and I'd so love to meet you in person. (If I already know you in person, don't worry--you'll be getting a harrassing email from me!)
Come out, come out, wherever you are!