Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke

By Rob Sheffield

Published August, 2013 by !t An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Memoir, Music

288 Pages

Advanced copy courtesy of BEA

Three Stars

Meet Rob Sheffield, lover of all things music. Growing up, I used to love VH1’s I Love series. In five days, they would do countdowns of the top 100 best moments of the decades. Rob Sheffield was often a contributor, and a funny one from what I remember. It has been a long time since they have been on and since I watched him. He is still a writer at Rolling Stone, but within the last six years he has gone to be a published author, Turn Around Bright Eyes his third memoir. I read his first memoir about his love of music and the role it had in his first marriage. Called Love is a Mixtape, he talks about every mix him and his now deceased wife made;he lists each song on the tape at the start of each section. I remember loving the book when it came out. As a big music fan, and a bigger fan of making mixes for the ones I love and random playlists constantly, the way he presented the significance and role the songs had in his life and marriage was nicely written. I have wanted to read his second memoir, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, but never had the chance. I was very excited about his third book because it is an nontraditional sequel to Love is a Mixtape instead of another memoir.

Turn Around Bright Eyes takes place three years after his wife died suddenly. He is in New York now, living in a new city with no memories of his dead wife. He now has a new start, but still he struggles. He stays in his apartment; watches Lifetime movie after Lifetime movie. It isn’t until his first night out late, singing karaoke for the first time, that he remembers how to live, stay up late; and he never wants to forget it again. He writes “There are times when we have to remember what they are. If we get lucky, something reminds us to move.”  I am definitely guilty of getting stuck (not watching Lifetime movies, but close). Sometimes a reminder, a simple remembrance of what it feels like to do something you used to do. Make sense? It’s just a quote I really connect to.

And, that is what the book really has done for me–connect me. It isn’t four stars worthy, but it is definitely a good, fun read. I loved a lot of aspects of the novel, especially the introspective ones. The book is well written, funny where it should be, and touching and sweet. It makes me really want to sing karaoke now. And the place is not too far from me. It was fun to read. The chapters were nicely divided with titles of songs and a time (which I am thinking is when he wrote it? not too sure).  What my nit picky thing is how the chapters jump around constantly. Sometimes he brings it all together. Other times (like when he want to Rock n Roll camp) don’t seem to fit with the narrative. It doesn’t mean the chapter or chapters were bad, but if the whole point was to show how he has grown and found his now wife through, because of music and karaoke, why were there chapters that didn’t truly focus on that? Yes, too much loveydovey would be bad. It does work, what he does. But, not completely.

It is a good book. I love the music references. The feelings songs have on him. I love the title, since I like the song eclipse of the heart (and the band bright eyes where the song lyrics inspired the name).  As Sheffield said,

“If all music did was bring the past alive, that would be fine. You can hide away in music and let it recapture memories of things that used to be. But music is greedy and it wants more of your heart than that. It demands the future, your future. Music wants the rest of your life…at any moment, a song can come out of nowhere to shake you up, jump-start your emotions, ruin your life….But, ultimately, that’s what karaoke is there to remind us. It’s never too late to let a song ruin your life.” And, it isn’t. Rob Sheffield, I bow down to your music-Buddhist sage advice.