Friday, July 22, 2005

Person who needs People

I haven't bought a copy of People since they put John Lennon's killer on the cover, but I'm told Runaway American Dream is mentioned in the current issue.

Also, Newsday panned the book this week:


It's no coincidence that the Bob Dylan-studies bibliography is longer than the Springsteen one: Dylan's more prolific, his lyrics are weirder, he drags each song through multiple arrangements and he's cultivated an air of personal mystery that only encourages fanatical guessing games. Still, Springsteen's long overdue for a book that takes the listener on a tour through the recordings and performances of his 30-year career, in much the same way that Paul Williams did with his superb three-volume "Bob Dylan: Performing Artist." Jimmy Guterman is comfortably colloquial ("please feel free to talk back, throw the book around the room"), and he's done his research; it's refreshing to hear from somebody who's as familiar with bootlegged live recordings of "The E Street Shuffle" as with side one of "Born in the U.S.A."

Unfortunately, Guterman's conversational tone often drifts into that of an ingratiating English teacher, one who addresses his audience as "folks" and commands "Now let's wait a minute" as he insouciantly condescends. And for what profundities must the reader suffer such treatment? "A tough rocker" is the sobriquet used to unhelpfully describe at least four different songs, while "The Ghost of Tom Joad" is "as accomplished lyrically as any record you can name, but it's musically quite samey." By the time Guterman weighs in on the last tour ("'If I Should Fall Behind' looked fake but felt real; the choreography in 'My City of Ruins' may well have been as real as anything in life but looked fake"), you'll have thrown the book plenty.

Different strokes...