Thursday, June 7, 2012

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Talking to Girls About Duran Duran (Plume, 2011).

I came into this book with elevated expectations and was mostly let down, but expectations are an unpleasant thing, and the fault of the reader. It isn't right to blame the author for them, but at the same time it is hard to fairly judge a book for what it actually brings when it steadfastly refused to provide what you wanted.

Rob Sheffield's previous book, Love is a Mix Tape, was a brutal, gut-wrenching memoir about the death of his first wife and all the music that they enjoyed together. This time, the approach is so much more scattershot. The chapters are a series of essays built around various pop songs of the 1980s, when Sheffield was in high school and college. In some cases, the musical selection bears just the slightest relevance to what he's discussing, and in others, like the aiming-for-legendary essay about one-hit wonders Haysi Fantayzee, Sheffield goes into full-throttle investigative journalism mode to learn what the heck it was we were listening to at the time.

Briefly, then, Love is a Mix Tape is a book that I might always own. It's that haunting and affecting of a work. This is like popcorn. I enjoyed it while I read it, but whacking great chunks of it are already lost to me, after just about two weeks. The chapter about driving an ice cream truck was funny, and so was the chapter about never, ever winning a match as a wrestler in high school but... well, I guess that one of these days, I would like to read a book about talking to girls about Duran Duran. That still sounds like it could be a blast, while this is just a curiosity that amused but did not resonate. Recommended as a library check-out.

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