Jason Bitner | Cassette From My Ex

book_cassettes.jpgStories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves (St. Martin’s Press)

I bet the man who invented the cassette tape had no idea the profound influence he was about to have on the world of relationships. Even today, when the cassette tape has already been dead so long it’s probably rotting in its grave, the term "mix tape" has become a general term for mixed CDs, and more importantly synonymous with the next step in a relationship. The time taken cuing the original, the artistry of the cover and the meaning behind each and every song chosen for your mate says a lot. The numerous messages behind it may not always be discernible but the gesture is clear: they’re into you.

Co-creator of Found Magazine Jason Bitner has put together Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks From Lost Loves; a hilarious and thought-provoking ensemble of love stories and the mix tape soundtrack that defined each and everyone one of them. The list of contributors include some of the music world’s most successful writers, filmmakers and performers. More than just a book, the project, like all of his projects, is the sum of various personal artifacts gathered in an overwhelmingly visual medium transporting the reader through the items. As with all Bitner concocts, his love for detail makes everyone of his projects entertaining and creative.

In just over 200 pages, Bitner has put together what is sure to be a classic reference book one day for those who wonder what the cassette was all about, and all that encompassed the art of making the infamous mixed tape. The book includes a step-by-step reference on not only how to make a mixed tape, but also how to repair and maintain a cherished cassette. For those who are more technologically savvy, there is even a brief synopsis on how to turn those old cassettes into MP3s.

For amateurs who may have overlooked the politics of pushing play, Bitner has included some of the most critical of faux pas and other random commentary for mixed-tape connoisseurs. These little tidbits of information are conveniently located throughout the book as a sort of break from the norm of back-to-back short stories that make up the bulk of the book. They serve not only as a quick blast of information, but also break the monotony and energize the reader with helpful information you can use.

The book reads like a collage of old pictures or paintings sprawled out across hundreds of colorful pages that not only grab you visually but invite you to discover every little detail you can find, much like an I Spy book. Every story is equipped with its own photograph of said cassette, including cover artwork and handwritten play list, and a firsthand short story written by various contributors of the written and performing art world. Within the pages of Bitner’s work lies an ability to conjure up memories of our own experiences and a reminder that while the relationship didn’t work out, that moment in time lives forever in our memories and, more physically, in a mixed tape.

At only a couple pages per story, Cassette will keep even those with the shortest of attention spans entertained for hours. The same aura of curiosity that makes people sneak a peek in other people’s medicine cabinets keeps you turning the page. Just like in Found Magazine, the amount of photographs of handwritten notes, the ability to actually see the original cassettes, and other various vintage artifacts add a more personal feel to each story. Through the precision of the writing, the subtly or sometimes not-so-subtly-selected song titles and lyrics behind the chosen tracks adds a whole other psychological aspect to the mixed tape phenomenon that makes you realize just how important you were to someone, if only for a moment in time. | Jennifer Manjarez


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