From Publishers Weekly
In this uneven memoir, British TV and radio journalist Manzoor describes growing up in Britain in the '70s and '80s by way of his love affair with the music of Bruce Springsteen. Only two years old when he emigrated from Pakistan, Manzoor was torn between the demands of his traditional family and the seductions of mainstream culture. His discovery of Springsteen at age 16 gave Manzoor a personal muse who allowed him to bridge the gulf separating the two worlds. For Manzoor, Springsteen's lyrics about alienation, isolation and generational misunderstandings addressed perfectly his inchoate feelings of rebellion and guilt. In Springsteen Nation, Manzoor found a culture that transcended his own divided loyalties and accepted him as just another fan. It's an intriguing hook, but one Manzoor handles awkwardly. Springsteen barely appears in the first 90 pages or so, which cover the family leaving Pakistan, Manzoor's father's death and his siblings' marriages. The early material seems rushed and is standard immigrant memoir fare—tales of suffering in the old country and shame in the new; antipathy toward the stern, workaholic father and the too-late realization of all they had in common. Some of the later episodes such as Manzoor's first trip to America—where he sells encyclopedias door-to-door—show real energy, but they're a long time coming. The division of the book into semi-discrete essays also tends to rob the narrative of unity and impact, and the 9/11 coda feels tacked on. (Apr.)
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This outstanding piece of scholarship and clear writing will answer most questions and lay to rest most legends about the famous Confederate submarine, the first of its kind to sink an enemy warship. The man Hunley, it appears, was more entrepreneur than engineer, and all three of his submarines were intended to be privateers. The most sophisticated and his namesake was, however, taken over by the Confederate army at the behest of General Beauregard. It eventually drowned its inventor and finally disappeared off Charleston while sinking a Union blockader. Located in 1995 and salvaged in 2000, the Hunley is now undergoing an exhaustive examination by marine archeologists that suggests it was made with considerably more technical sophistication than had been believed. The research that went into this book was also exhaustive (it is also unbiased), but it doesn’t make the book exhausting. Altogether, “the secret hope of the Confederacy” is now a good deal less secret, and Civil War collections can fill many gaps with a single purchase. --Roland Green