Love Is a Mix-Tape

I just finished reading Rob Sheffield’s Love Is a Mix-Tape, the Rolling Stone critic’s memoir about his love affair with rock crit Renee Crist, who died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage just a few years into their young marriage. It’s a very sad, well-written story, told through a unique, somewhat gimmicky literary device: each chapter starts with the song list of a mix-tape Rob or Renee made.

I’ve only met Rob once, I think, but I’ve always related to his taste and admired his writing, which I don’t always do with my peers. I didn’t know Renee either, though I loved her L7 Spin story back in the day. Reading Rob’s book, I wish I had known them both — and feel like I do.

Rob has tremendous insights about music, like the one about Biggie Smalls’ music being about being a husband. I did find Rob’s tendency to see everything through a musical spectrum irritating at points — classic rockcrit nerdboy character flaw. Maybe what was on the radio on the way home from Renee’s funeral isn’t so important.

But I recommend Love Is a Mix-Tape. I found it interesting that Rob rhapsodizes about the ’90s as a vibrant period for music and politics, particularly for women, since I do the same in Mamarama. Clinton era nostalgia, here we come!

I didn’t read the memoir without a tinge of irony, and jealousy, though. In the middle of that supposedly vibrant period, women writers like myself and, I believe, Renee, were explicitly blacklisted by Spin publisher Bob Guccione for saying those kinds of things. Rob didn’t suffer from that blacklist, has built a solid and deserved career, and can get a job at that bastion of sexism Stone, and a cushy book deal, and pretend that blacklist never happened. We’ll never know if Renee would have succeeded likewise, sadly.

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