Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cassette From My Ex

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 Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves (St. Martin's Griffin, 2009).

I had a really good feeling that I'd like this book. Jason Bitner used to run - or perhaps "curate" is a better word - a blog at cassettefrommyex.com, but it's been down for quite some time now. There, he got submissions from all over the map from people who'd held onto old mix tapes from old flames, and sent in photos and stories about them.

I wish that I had seen the blog before it vanished, but happily, the project did net Bitner a book deal. While the hardcover collection is out of print, it's easily obtained and definitely worth a look. It's just so fun, touching on all of these wonderful shared experiences with other people from the 1980s and 1990s who somehow knew all the same "rules" for making mixtapes as I did.

The last time I made a mix tape was the last day of 1999. It was kind of bitter. I made a second copy for myself and rediscovered it this past summer, cleaning out the basement of my childhood home. I have no way to play it any longer, which is probably for the best, because that is one mean, hurtful, heartbroken, dagger of a tape. They were always more than the sum of their parts, weren't they?

The book is full of essays and track lists, with lots of photos of the surviving tapes, track lists that double as love notes, and all sorts of heartbreak and blissful memories. Most of the writers were not known to me, but Claudia Gonson of the Magnetic Fields contributed a great story, as did - kind of unsurprisingly - Rob Sheffield, who's probably more responsible than anybody else for keeping memories of mix tapes alive all these years after we quit making them.

It's very fun, although probably not a book that you can expect to read in one sitting. It's fun to linger over, a couple of stories a night, while reading something a little heavier on the side. Recommended for readers who made these.

No comments: