Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review 2 - Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

Loyal readers of this blog must be getting a sense of deja vu.  "Didn't you guys already review this book a couple months ago?"  Indeed, your memory is not playing tricks on you.  However, I received this book as a gift for my birthday shortly (perhaps based on Steve's review), and have just spent the past two weeks plowing through this book.  As a loyal reader, you obviously know that Steve and I tackle Springsteen from different angles, so I would be remiss if I didn't add my two cents on this recent biography.

While I am a fan of non-fiction, I find the biography format can often be too formulaic - you go in a straight line from the past to the present, and make sure you make all the appropriate stops along the way.  As a Springsteen aficionado, I've already amassed a solid amount of information regarding Bruce's timeline.  So, when the book opened up with Doug and Adele meeting, I rolled my eyes and thought I was in for another standard tome.  However, once Bruce picked up the guitar, the book, too, got rocking and rolling.

Like Steve pointed out, this book doesn't aim to present Bruce as a mythical being, nor doesn't it purposely try to be iconoclastic. (Sidenote: in rereading my overly-harsh review of Chris Sanford's book, I can't help but think of the two ways the authors presented the infamous fight with Lynn Goldsmith on Bruce's 30th birthday.  While both portray it as an embarrassing moment in Bruce's career, Ames presents it in the context of Bruce's timeline, with frustration mounting from intense River recording sessions. Sanford throws it at you in the opening chapter, immediately tainting your view of the incident and of Bruce for the entire book.)  This book presents Bruce's triumphs and tragedies in the most human light I've seen in my year of being a Springsteen blogger.  While Springsteen's 20s were a roller-coaster unlike anything my friends or I could even imagine, Ames captures Bruce's emotions in an immensely relatable way.  As someone who just turned 28, I found myself easily understanding Bruce's thought process and justifications for his antics with his career, friendships, and women.

Another classic moment in the book is Bruce pointing out that Elvis and James Brown seem like superstars who don't have any friends, and vowing never to be like them.  Appropriately, this book does a very good job covering the E Street Band.  Quotes from Tallent and Weinberg are all over the place, and the madcap personalities of Vini Lopez and Danny Federici are entertainingly presented.  However, Clarence Clemons does come off very tragically - the last quote he has before he dies is about not being in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, while Scialfa is barely covered.

Like many other biographies, the book also gets a bit thin when it comes to covering the last 10 years.  While Born To Run and Born In The USA will be analyzed for years to come, I can't help but hold a soft-spot in my heart for Bruce's work from 1998 to 2008.  This was the period of time where all under-30 Bruce fans found his work, and not much here is dedicated to it - a blink of an eye and you'll miss The Seeger Sessions.  But, admittedly, this is a selfish complaint.

Overall, this book is an entertaining guideline to the history of Bruce, and I definitely foresee me going back and consulting it when writing future posts here.  I'd give it a solid 4 out of 5, and completely worth reading.

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