why i wanted to read it: this thing’s been in the line of books atop my desk, guarding the windowsill for YEARS. i bought it because one of the gals who worked the music department at the bookstore for which i once was employed… she’d said she loved it. and i liked her tastes, so i bought it. and i maybe read a chapter of it. but then i put it down, never to return.
and then last night i decided to do this little challenge, and so i piled all the books i’ve bought but not read on my bed and made my list. for twenty-five points, i’m to read a biography, autobiography or memoir. and so i chose this.
what i liked: tonight, i feel like my whole body is made out of memories. i’m a mix tape, a cassette that’s been rewound so many times you can hear the fingerprints smudged on the tape… i now get scared of forgetting anything about renee, even the tiniest detail, even the bands on this tape i can’t stand–if she touched them, i want to hear her fingerprints (p. 12).
i was totally clueless about social interaction, and completely scared of girls. all i knew was that music was going to make girls fall in love with me.
so i approached my beatmaster duties with the same reverence i brought to my sundays as an altar boy serving mass. i approached my stereo sanctuary and genuflected. i lifted each vinyl wafer to the heavens. i unveiled the cassette ostentorium: “take this, all of you, and rock. this is the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. it will be shed for you, and for all who rock, so that rock may be worshiped and glorified” (pp. 29-30).
if i had my way, the story would end here. renee was always braver. she always wanted to know what happened next (p. 86).
the months leading up to the wedding had been a pageant of highly entertaining (for me) and traumatic (for her) dreams, which she confessed with shame every morning. they all had the same plot: renee trysts with a boy from her past, he begs her to run away with him, she thinks about it, and then she decides instead to move on to her future with me… my favorite was the volleyball player from roanoke. the last time she booty-called him, he said he was busy–he didn’t want to miss the farewell episode of magnum, p.i. years after the fact, renee was still fuming. i wanted to shake his hand (pp. 87-88).
it’s a pop cliche that the ideal band partnership is between the guy who lives it and the guy who writes songs about it… one is voice, celebrity, performance; the other is music (p. 137)
i knew i would have to relearn how to listen to music, and that some of the music we’d loved together i’d never be able to hear again (p. 149).
i loved the scene in the killers when ava walks up to the piano in her black dress and sings her little torch song: “the more i know of love, the less i know it/ the more i give to love, the more i owe it.” ava gardner didn’t lie (p. 156).
i had no voice to talk with because she was my whole language. without her to talk to, there was nothing to say… now, we had a whole different language to learn, a new grammar of loss to conjugate: i lose, you lose, we lose; i have lost, you have lost, we have lost. words i said out loud, every day, many times a day, for years and years–suddenly they were dust in my mouth (pp. 156-7).
the way i pictured it, all this grief would be like a winter night when you’re standing outside. you’ll warm up once you get used to the cold. except after you’ve been out there a while, you feel the warmth draining out of you, and you realize the opposite is happening… you get weaker the longer you endure it (p. 173).
some nights i would drive up route 29 to the all-night wal-mart. i’d push a cart around with some paper towels inside to look like a real shopper, just to spy on married people. i just wanted to be near them, to listen to them argue… people fight over some dumb shit when they think there aren’t any widowers eavesdropping. and they never think there are any widowers eavedropping… i was so hungry for the company. i was scared i would be caught, that my wedding ring would be put under a scanner and exposed as a fraud, a widower trying to pass as a husband (pp. 173-174).
when my friends and family would ask how i was doing, i stalled or stuttered or lied. sometimes i could feel the glaciers shifting inside me, and i hoped they were melting, but they were just making themselves more comfortable (p. 178).
ralph waldo emerson knew the score: “i grieve that grief can teach me nothing” (pp. 189-90).
i marked a lot of other pages that weren’t quite as poetic, but i enjoyed the sentiments expressed nonetheless. and i liked looking at these mix tapes of his and renee’s and remembering the music.
what sucked: the author’s a contributing editor at rolling stone. so there’s some pretentiousness. i don’t always agree with his definition of good music. there’s a whole chapter dedicated to nirvana, which was a good band, sure, but i’ve never seen kurt cobain as a god. and sheffield so very clearly does (though i can understand and appreciate the comparisons he makes in some instances). and i don’t always like the way he writes. it could’ve stood to be thirty pages or so shorter. maybe. the beauty of the above passages sometimes gets lost in the rest of it.
having said that: it’s a good story. maybe i like mr. sheffield a little better for having read it.