Saturday, March 8, 2014

Turn Around Bright Eyes

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 Turn Around Bright Eyes (It, 2013).

I really enjoyed one of Rob Sheffield's earlier books, Love is a Mix Tape. I like the style of his books, which blend memoir drenched in music with biographical essays about the business. Somehow he turns the very disparate parts into a cohesive story that makes sense, encourages you to laugh, and occasionally breaks your heart. From time to time, his taste in tunes makes me raise an eyebrow, but he always delivers the payoff.

So, if you've been following Sheffield's stories through magazines and articles, or from his previous books, you'll deduce that this story will be set a few years after his first wife's tragic, early death. So, now a widower in New York City, he starts looking for a social life again, and finds that karaoke, of all things, makes him happier than just about anything else, and gives him a great experience to share when he eventually falls in love again. My own experience with karaoke is all wrapped around a girl as well. The difference is that I never really enjoyed it all that much, have an even worse singing voice than Sheffield, and quit doing it after we split up. I might have done a mean version of "The Look of Love" by ABC before the end, mind.

Other topics in the book include a story about a rock 'n roll fantasy camp, featuring a cameo appearance by Micky Dolenz or somebody, and the stranger-than-you-think career of Rod Stewart. I admire the way that Sheffield makes these magazine stories (unpublished, in the case of the camp) seem like part of the narrative of his love story. It's a heck of a good tale, and it keeps me wanting to read more and more from him as we await some new memoir down the line. The happiness and optimism that fills this book keeps it from being the heartbreaker that Mix Tape was, but I like shiny, happy songs as well. Recommended.

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