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43 of 56 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The promise was broken....., November 12, 2012
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This review is from: Bruce (Kindle Edition)
I finished this book wanting "less" not "more", as it is really not a biography, but a description of Bruce's lengthy, deserved career, with some access to Bruce and to those who know Bruce. The story is mostly about the childhood and post-adolescent adolescence Bruce experienced, until his life seemingly changed dramatically with his first marriage and subsequent marriage to Patti, his wife, both in the mid-late'80s, when Bruce was still under 40. Other than updated descriptions of his very public tours and musical and lyrical output since he turned 40, in 1989, there is pitifully little insight into Bruce, the husband and father and living proof of the American Dream he seems to live in horse country near where he grew up.

The author's having access to characters in Bruce's life: old girlfriends, his mother and sisters and the E Street Band, who are clearly backing musicians in Bruce's story--and little more--- is a double-edged guitar. It promises great insights, but delivers almost none into Bruce the man, which is what "biography" really should be: "a written account of another person's life." Those sources other than the above, fall into just a few categories: people who claimed to recognize Bruce as genius incarnate immediately, those who work or worked for him, and his old girlfriends and former wife. There is an obvious sense of resentment at how the band has been treated over the years, but the old girlfriends and wife have nothing much to say; the longterm current wife and his kids are totally absent from the discussion. It is almost as if we know nothing about Bruce after he turned 40--23+ years ago. Learning about how Bruce has evolved as a person since that landmark and how he has, hopefully, changed from the "all there is in life is my art" life he seemed to lead before that divider was the allure of reading this "biography". However, I learned little to nothing in that regard and , as I have been a devoted fan and attendee since 1975. Other than tidbits and some details, most of which add nothing of substance., I learned nothing of the the post-40 Bruce.

What this book is a detailed description of Bruce's career and the early evolution and inspiration. Bruce, to me, is above all, a wonderful poet, with a terrific musical gift and a natural--or calculated--ability to entertain. Like most poets, Bruce's best expression is in his own words, through his written verses (which, when put to song are "lyrics"). I wince every time Bruce appears in print or on some talking media and tries to explain himself and his thoughts, as by comparison to his art, these attempts are painful and ponderous. Tnis tome analyzes Bruce's lyrics and music throughout his career, which hardly serves to tell us anything more about Bruce, the person, than being familiar with those lyrics could do.

Bruce has always proclaimed--or did when he was in his pre-40, "private" phase : "know the art, not the artist". Carlin, the author of "Bruce" seems to equate the two, and seemingly assumes that the art equates to the "artist". That's the part I wanted less of. We can all read the poetry and hear the songs. But, very few of us can know the artist, understandably. Though, having some insights into the artistic process of this very gifted artist, might have provided some insights, Carlin's book does nothing to further that goal. The author does not even pretend to portray the artist, himself over the last 23 years, during which Bruce has become a husband and father of three and loaned his name, bravely, to presidential candidates (Bravo to him for sticking his neck out!). Though Carlin did try to incorporate what little, balancing negativity he could glean, those with most of those feelings either work for Bruce or worked for him and no longer do ,but are legally constrained from speaking "until the end of time" or would rather leave things unsaid.

A nice opportunity to provide an informed actual "biography" of Bruce Springsteen has been blown. I am left with wanting a lot less of what is in the book and a lot more about Bruce's artistic process and his actual life as an adult, which is absent from this book. Sad to say, I learned almost nothing from this book that I can remember, which is , for me, the mark of a book that has failed as real "biography"." Instead, we get "a written account" of Bruce's career and artistic output, most of which is already well known and widely available.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 20, 2012 12:56:03 PM PST
Double-edged guitar?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 8:46:55 AM PST
BeauneHead says:
yeah....more apt than a sword...though, maybe not than an axe??

Posted on Dec 1, 2012 6:45:54 AM PST
D. Welch says:
YES! The last paragraph of this review says it all for me. It's exactly what I felt...I still kept reading, and plugging through the pages, but never really had a chance to enjoy a biography. Musicians undoubtedly appreciate all the details in this book, but please, I thought I would be able to read about Bruce, Patti, the family they created and cherish. Instead, I was left to just keep hoping it would get better.

Posted on Dec 11, 2012 12:57:58 PM PST
Patrick King says:
Your definition of "biography" is at best unconventional. Perhaps the greatest living biographer is David McCullough who researches the lives almost exclusively of dead people with amazing precision. With the insight of 50+ years after death, McCullough can draw conclusions about cause and effect. Such tactics used on a living subject would be fortune telling. A biography is a list of significant events in a person's life in chronological order verifiable through public and private records. It should not, as Dave Marsh's two books are, be laden down with subjective nonsense from the author. The latter part of Carlin's book deals extensively with Springsteen's political activism and the philosophy and literature and events that drive him. I, too, would like to know more about Springsteen's relationships and how they impact his art. Carlin clearly does not feel confident enough or values his relation with Springsteen too much to offer the kinds of insight that was certainly available to him while compiling this. Nonetheless, two stars? This is far and away the ONLY biography of Springsteen so far produced.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2012 1:27:49 PM PST
BeauneHead says:
Well, we disagree, Patrick. If you call something a "biography" and try to do it on a living person (which is admittedly more difficult, but has more potential, with access to the subject, as Carlin had), you can't just stop when the guy is 35 with such efforts...and act like the next 28 years are a minor part of the picture. Maybe he should have called it a history of the first 35 years instead. Yes, it wasn't as fawning as the waste of paper Marsh created. But, he did fine for the first 35 years...and then seemed to gloss over the potentially more interesting last 28 years, when Bruce became more than a rock star...but a family man, political activist, icon and superhuman-for-his age performer. But, he didn't...for whatever reason. So, to me, the book failed; it did half the job, so I gave it 2 stars. Even for the first part, I thought it was way heavy on analyzing lyrics and albums to really be biography.

I can't argue about whether there are other Bruce bios out there. I am not enough of a fanatic to have read beyond the Marsh adulations/pontifications. And, I generally follow the "know the art,not the artist" creed that Bruce used to espouse...and maybe still does? But, I had read that Carlin's effort was impending and that he had access to Bruce and others in his life. I guess I was more optimistic, but it does take sources that are likely to not only want to please Bruce/not trash him...and, I think, as you say, "confidence" in what the author is doing so that he can provide that "kind of insight". But, when a guy has lived 63+ years and a purported biography crams almost half of the years (and those which should be very interesting and have been productive ones) into a smallish last portion of the book....I got too much detail on one period..and not enough on the other. That leaves me unsatisfied and unimpressed with the product. Sort of like if McCullough had spent most of his time talking about John Adams' legal career...up to defending the perpetrators of the Boston Massacre...and glossed over the rest of Adams' life, I guess. And, left out anything about Abigail, their relationship...their kids....etc. Or, stopped at Truman's life when he was still a Senator from MO, and glossed over the next stage. I wouldn't have been any kinder to McCullough.

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 1:49:36 PM PST
Terry Hill says:
I concur with your analogy regarding the absence of a penetrating insight in to the post modernist Springsteen, the 63 year old husband and father. What we get from "Bruce" by Peter Ames Carlin more of "The Glory Days," the Renaissance man and legendary Rock Icon. It will be more interesting when Bruce finally "authorizes" a biography, verse saying its OK but nothings official for the record.

Posted on Feb 2, 2013 5:43:37 AM PST
BeauneHead: Thanks for your interesting review. Based on it, I have decided NOT to purchase this book. I want the WHOLE story, not just 2/3 of the story. Guess I'll have to wait for another attempt by somebody else.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 2, 2013 5:50:12 AM PST
BeauneHead says:
Patrick....even bad experiences can be good....to help appreciate the good. So, I'm not happy to hear someone decided, based on my thoughts, not to read it. But, I understand...I wish I had known what I knew before buying/reading it....I might still have bought it, but my expectations would have been very low....and 60% lower.....

Like you, I'll wait for another, better attempt....but....not sure I'm interested enough to risk it again....and Bruce's autobiography wouldn't be any better...he is not a very good writer or speaker about himself and his thoughts....not very good at all. The man has a gift for music/song/poetry....he should stick to that.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 14, 2013 8:35:36 AM PDT
Your assessment of the book and Springsteen's ability to explain his thoughts/work are on target. The biggest failure of the book is having access to all of the important persons in Springsteen life and not taking advantage of that assess to flesh out a "complete" biography that does not offer insight into the last 25 plus years of Springsteen's life.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 14, 2013 8:39:37 AM PDT
BeauneHead says:
Thanks for your comment. In the intervening five months since I read the book and wrote my comments, the book has faded into oblivion in my thoughts. Virtually nothing to take away from it that I didn't already know...or don't care about. That, unfortunately, is a good marker for me. A really blown promise/opportunity.
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