Saturday, July 02, 2005

Times review

The New York Times roundup of Springsteen books, including mine, is here. I'm grateful and surprised, and I should note that the previous book attributed to me, The Worst Rock'n'Roll Record Of All Time, was not written by me alone: It would have been impossible to complete and infinitely less fun to write without my friend and collaborator Owen O'Donnell.

Here's the excerpt of A.O. Scott's essay that concerns Runaway American Dream:

To my mind, no one has written better about the texture and rhythm of a Springsteen show than Jimmy Guterman. His new book, RUNAWAY AMERICAN DREAM: Listening to Bruce Springsteen (Da Capo, paper, $15.95), is a collection of loose, energetic essays that, as they meander and overlap, add up to a passionate, highly subjective portrait of the artist in relation to his public. Guterman, whose other books include The Worst Rock 'n' Roll Records of All Time, makes some interesting and occasionally counterintuitive judgments about Springsteen's records, but his greatest knack is for using particular shows and tours to set up wide-ranging excursions into musical history. His perspective -- the one on which rock criticism was founded in the late 1960's -- is that of the smart guy in the audience, plucking ideas and emotions out of the stream of familiar songs and wondering what, beyond the price of the ticket, it all amounts to.

Guterman's understanding of the bond between Springsteen and his audience, a phenomenon empirically observed at who knows how many stadium, arena and club shows, is both nuanced and incisive, as is his description of the songwriting ethic that guarantees that bond. Since Darkness on the Edge of Town, Springsteen, according to Guterman, has told "accurate, unflinching stories of the people who weren't as lucky as he was. As he looked out at the vast stadium crowds, he must have known those were the people filling the stadiums. They still needed to see a reflection of themselves onstage; Springsteen still needed to deliver that."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company