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Book Worm: Bruce

What’s that? Oh, yes, that was me who posted a series of goals to accomplish for 2013 and then proceeded to disappear for a few weeks.

But here I am, post 2013’s non-apocalypse. I went on an unintentional, one month internet fast which probably has less to do with my desire to purge myself of the online obsession, and more to do with wanting to curl up into a ball when life gets hectic.

During this time, I spent quite a bit of time with my copy of Bruce, a new-ish biography about Bruce Springsteen. (Is there any other Bruce, really?) It’s been a while since I sunk my teeth into a 400-page hardcover, especially one about a musician. While non-fiction tends to dominate my bookshelf, I usually steer away from biographies in favor of historical tales, memoirs, and cultural studies. 

It’s really easy to romanticize Springsteen. He’s this cultural icon that takes on the emotions and values of the times in which we’re viewing him. He’s either our hopes and dreams, or the symbolic voice of our downfall. There’s not a song of his that you can’t relate to at some point in your life. And I have this theory that you’re taste in the Boss develops according to age: you go from Greetings From Asbury Park while you’re young, progressively moving onto newer albums with each passing birthday.

Bruce was an interesting read in that it really explores the history of this man who often comes across as mythological, larger than life. Peter Ames Carlin starts the book with a description of the death of Bruce’s grand aunt. He explores Springsteen’s genealogical history, the life events that shaped Springsteen’s parents, and later goes on to describe the young Jersey boy who was overly doted on by his grandparents. In a discussion about nature versus nurture, Ames’ book would have nurture covered. He leaves no detail out about external factors that influenced the legend’s life.

What draws me into Springsteen personally is his creativity and the way in which he writes and produces. He’s able to write rock songs that are so poetic, that explore these grandiose themes about life, all while telling a simple story about an everyday person. Not to mention the way in which he presents his work, with his religious and spiritual stage persona that goes on forever. Seeing him in New Jersey – the arena becomes an alternative megachurch in which every New Jersey resident is being subconsciously pulled toward their salvation, the kind that lasts for four hours, for one night, in which everything else around you is forgotten.

Reading Bruce a few months post-Sandy was particularly emotional. At one point, Ames talks about Springsteen’s reaction to September 11, which included a drive to the bridge in Sea Bright, from which you can see the skyline of lower Manhattan. I drove over that same bridge a few weeks ago, for the first time after the Hurricane hit. There’s something about that spot, maybe, that acts as an understanding backdrop to periodic upheaval.

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