happy birthday bruce
random friday, 1997 edition: sleater-kinney, "words and guitar"

talking to girls about duran duran

You wouldn’t know it from the evidence here, but I do actually read books (and I love the new update to Kindle for my phone that lets me search a book by voice). People give me books, I read them, although I often forget to bring it up later and thank them … there’s always an episode of Sons of Anarchy to talk about, after all.

I was given Rob Sheffield’s wonderful first book, Love Is a Mix Tape, as a gift. After I read it, I wrote about “Rob Sheffield, who always impressed me with his snarkish writing, and then I read his book about his wife and ohmigod it made me cry and now I can’t read his snark without thinking of the lovely person behind the words.” He has another book, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, and it reaches out to me in a different way than the first one, but the lovely person is still in there.

I imagine Sheffield has long ago tired of being compared to Nick Hornby, but the perspective of the person telling the stories (Sheffield in his books, which are non-fiction and memoirs of a sort) is similar to a Hornby narrator (perhaps most in Fever Pitch, which is a memoir of sorts, as well). Similar, but that only goes so far. Because Sheffield is never alone in his own tales, even when he’s by himself, and his companions are almost all women, and they are drawn with such affectionate detail that you want to meet them and experience them for yourself. Since he also has a fine sense of how to work his love of pop music into the mix, you get, in Talking to Girls, a book that is simultaneously a memoir of a geek’s childhood, a paean to some of the great girls and women in his life, and an astute look at 80s music. The transitions are not always seamless, but close enough.

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran manages to speak to people who aren’t of Sheffield’s generation, to people who don’t love Duran Duran. As Robert Christgau wrote, “That's one of the things this book is about--liking and even loving music of dubious ultimate import. But not in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Sheffield's way too smart for that saw, plus he a) grew up with this music, which means he knows it as no older or younger person can and b) has an astonishing critical ability to internalize and home in on musical details that make you wonder whether its import has been underrated.” I recommend both of Sheffield’s books.