I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Turn Around Bright Eyes by Rob Sheffield
Published by Harper Collins on August 6th 2013
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Essays, Form, Genres & Styles, Humor, Music, Personal Memoirs, Rock
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Once upon a time I was falling apart. Now I'm always falling in love.Pick up the microphone.When Rob Sheffield moved to New York City in the summer of 2001, he was a young widower trying to start a new life in a new town. Behind, in the past, was his life as a happily married rock critic, with a wife he adored, and a massive collection of mix tapes that captured their life together. And then, in a flash, all he had left were the tapes.Beyoncé , Bowie, Bon Jovi, Benatar . . .One night, some friends dragged him to a karaoke bar in the West Village. A night out was a rare occasion for Rob back then.Turn aroundSomehow, that night in a karaoke bar turned into many nights, in many karaoke bars. Karaoke became a way out, a way to escape the past, a way to be someone else if only for the span of a three-minute song. Discovering the sublime ridiculousness of karaoke, despite the fact that he couldn't carry a tune, he began to find his voice.Turn aroundAnd then the unexpected happened. A voice on the radio got Rob's attention. The voice came attached to a woman who was unlike anyone he'd ever met before. A woman who could name every constellation in the sky, and every Depeche Mode B side. A woman who could belt out a mean Bonnie Tyler.Bright EyesTurn Around Bright Eyes is an emotional journey of hilarity and heartbreak with a karaoke soundtrack. It's a story about finding the courage to move on, clearing your throat, and letting it rip. It's a story about navi- gating your way through adult romance. And it's a story about how songs get tangled up in our deepest emotions, evoking memories of the past while inspiring hope for the future.
I first came across Rob Sheffield’s books through the goodreads group that Jamie at the Perpetual Page Turner started — College Students — at least I think that’s what it was called. Anyways, someone there had mentioned Love Is A Mixed Tape, so I promptly added it to my to-read list, thought I wanted to read it really badly and then kind of forgot about it. Flash forward to a few years later and I am at this Harper Collins BEA party with laryngitis and Rob Sheffield is there and so is Jamie and I make sure I grab a swag bag with Sheffield’s latest, Turn Around Bright Eyes. THEN of course I wait like a goon a few years to read it, even though I constantly add it to my TBR list.
So, the premise of Turn Around Bright Eyes is that karaoke is the thing that can really unite us all in a love of music. Sheffield writes about this love affair that he has with the activity. He writes about how it has impacted his life in the most positive way. We start out at a karaoke party where he’s ringing in the dawn with his wife Ally and then it goes to some dark places because like anyone who has lost someone, he’s grieving. It talks about how he moves from Virginia to New York City, the financial district. We read about his experience of 9/11. The book goes into how he meets Ally. It goes on to discuss how he’s a terrible boyfriend but an awesome husband. And there’s Irish ballads and family and friends and just community. Really this book is about how the thread of singing connects us as humans, regardless of how perfect our pitch may or may not be.
Honestly, reading Turn Around Bright Eyes made me want to do karaoke. I am a terrible singer like Sheffield. He just makes it sound like so much fun though. At one point, I was on the phone with the boyfriend and was like LET’S DO KARAOKE and then we proceeded to discuss what it would take for him to join me but he was down for it because he is awesome. Also, in fact, there’s a chapter in this book that goes into the Beatles and his two favorite songs by them that I ended up loving so much that I had to go listen to Beatles songs on youtube as I continued to read on. I love that this book resonated so strongly with me, even though Sheffield’s life and scope is much different from mine. There’s this emotion and enthusiasm that came through the book that I really connected with.
I liked how Sheffield writes about love too. He writes about falling in love as an adult and how we each bring our obsessions to a relationship, regardless of how dorky that is. If you can find someone who has obsessions, you’re lucky. He talks about how he loves Welcome Back Kotter and how Ally has her love of astrophysics. I love that. I think it’s true. If you are the sort of person who has your interests that are weird that you love unironically and you can find someone else who loves things unironically, then you are a lucky person. So much of Turn Around Bright Eyes resonated with me, especially the bits on romance, even though, again, my life experiences are different.
I think that if you liked High Fidelity and if you love music, you will love Turn Around Bright Eyes. Sheffield’s enthusiasm is catching and while yes, there’s sad parts to this book, there’s just this note that supersedes that and makes me want to go out and stay out until dawn and just be jubilant about music and the world and everyone. And really? That’s what I want from a book — something that makes me want to go out and live life.