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Bruce Springsteen's America: The People Listening, a Poet Singing

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A book

Offers a portrait of Bruce Springsteen and the influence of his music on both the lives of ordinary Americans and on the American literary tradition, examining the meaning of his lyrics within a social, cultural, and philosophical context.   … see full wiki

Author: Robert Coles
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
1 review about Bruce Springsteen's America: The People...

Why are we listening to these people and not Bruce?

  • Sep 16, 2010
So Springsteen is the new Dylan, and now both are getting the academic treatment, which works sometimes for Dylan, but hasn't work yet in the couple of books I've read about Springsteen.  In this one, Coles, a professor of psychiatry, tries to link Springsteen to writers like William Carlos Williams and Walker Percy by extensive unbroken quotations, the kind of quotations an English teacher would downgrade a student for using to compose a term paper.  

This especially stands out because the meat of the book is first-hand accounts from Coles' patients about the impact of Springsteen and his songs on their lives.  So Coles, the "professional writer" does almost no writing, while his patients (like most people who aren't professional writers, thinkers, or speakers) are fitfully banal and insightful.  Surprising, a couple of female patients find Springsteen's  lyrics sexist, treating women as objects and referring to them as "Babe" or "Baby".  Okay, so I never felt Springsteen sexist from my male (I'm certain un- or sub-consciously chauvinist) perspective, but I checked with my wife, also a Springsteen fan, and she doesn't find him sexist.   Some of the segments seem almost quaint with their references to Springsteen's nicknames--"The Boss", "Bruuuuuce", and "Bruce baby" (Hunh?  I've been listening since Born to Run and NEVER heard anyone call him that)--as if they are new or foreign.  Perhaps it is a testament to his longevity and status as a cultural icon that it no longer seems surprising or even shocking that a teacher (as two do here in segments that date from the late 1990s) would use Springsteen lyrics in poetry lessons.

In any case, I'll conclude this review as I did the other review of a book of Springsteen lyrical treatment by saying it's time to stop talking and go listen.  After finishing this book an evening or two ago, I dialed up "Better Days", "If I Should Fall Behind", and "I'll Work for Your Love"  on my iPOD, and cried myself to sleep with tears of joy and longing.  That's Bruce.

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