Saturday, May 15, 2004

I just finished reading It Ain't No Sin to be Glad that You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen. This is the second book I've read recently by Eric Alterman, the previous one being What Liberal Media, which is brilliant.

While I appreciate Alterman's politics and generally agree with them, I don't know what to make of him. He's probably the first political commentator I ever watched on TV, agreed with everything he said, yet still wanted to punch him in the face. He was just so snotty that I felt like he was acting out all of the bad stereotypes about leftists at once. I wasn't at all entertained, I felt condescended to, and I just got madder as he went.

The Springsteen book is totally different, though. Instead of smarty-pants snooty, Alterman is a worshipping fan writing an extended essay to his idol here. I really like Springsteen and have found myself listening to him a lot lately--particularly Thunder Road and Badlands. But I don't have anything of the worshipful fervor Alterman and others portrayed in this book have. Springsteen's appeal is political in some senses--he is a champion of the working-class and the downtrodden, no doubt--but it transcends typical definitions of politics and touches something more holistic in the lives of his ardent fans. This is not a great musician biography, it's not great sociology and it's not a great political analysis. But somewhere at the nexus of those things it is a compelling and heartfelt story of artistic creation and fandom.

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