Book of the week
Born to Run
For Bruce Springsteen, it all goes back to his relationship with his father, said David Kamp in Vanity Fair. In the legendary rocker’s new 500-page autobiography, readers will find “no shortage of levity”— including the author’s self-mocking references to his shortcomings as a driver of the American muscle cars he celebrated in his early, reputation-making songs. But at heart, the 67-year-old Freehold, N.J., native is “a man given to puzzling out the mixed-up thoughts in his head,” and so he’s used the book to try to figure out and explain what he’s been running from since he left his downtrodden hometown at 19 and committed himself to a life in music. The book “demonstrates how honestly Springsteen has come to his material— cars, girls, the Shore, the workingman’s struggles.” The Bruce we see most vividly, though, is the teenager who feared, loved, and battled his brooding, violent father.
Springsteen’s “intensely satisfying” selfchronicle is much like one of his shows— “long, ecstatic, exhausting,” and filled with emotional peaks and valleys, said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. Oddly, the artist who announced his arrival with the “word-drunk” 1973 album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., never really explains how he developed his gifts as a lyricist. But, “like his best songs,” the book is “closely observed from end to end,” full of sharp character sketches and potent anecdotes. Perhaps its biggest reveal is how long, and how often, Springsteen has endured bouts of serious depression. But that news is “not the reason to come to Born to Run.”
A better reason is the vivid sense Springsteen conjures of the devotion he brings to his music, said Randy Lewis in the Los Angeles Times. The book is also “a picture of a well-rounded life, with all its rough edges” and “bruised and battered relationships.” Springsteen takes the blame for the failure of his first marriage, for example, and even admits that he’s been unfair to his father in some songs. He never denies that his father was volatile, and incapable when it most mattered of expressing love. But the book leaves the impression that the landmark 1975 song from which it takes its title was always more about the elder Springsteen than the younger. And by sharing one son’s attempt to truly understand the life forces that shaped his father and to turn that understanding into art, this latest Springsteen epic turns out to be “a story as profoundly inspiring as his best songs.”