I am a massive philosophy nerd, and I also happen to love Bruce Springsteen with a borderline troubling devotion, so when this book was recommended to me by a friend who also meets both of these qualifications, I suspected I was in for a treat. Thankfully, I have not been disappointed.
As one might expect, these are not especially technical, dense, or earth-shatteringly provocative essays, but I don't necessarily need or want a book lise this to exhibit those qualities, so I appreciate how readable and entertaining most of the prose in "Bruce Springsteen and Philosophy" is. The essays can be enjoyed separately as fun, bite-sized reflections on the philosophical implications of The Boss's work, or--if you're like me--you can binge on as many successive essays as your schedule will allow. Highly recommended.
Let me begin by saying I LOVE BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN! I think he has SO much to say and he says it SO WELL, also, I like to ponder philosophy, and the human condition. I was totally psyched that someone had listened to Bruce's musical poetry and had analyzed it, I was really looking forward to reading this book. What. A. Total. Disappointment. Every bit of joy, all the yearning to be free, has been sucked out of every song reviewed. There are a couple of cute phrases, I'll give the book that, I keep trying to read it and keep being disappointed. an example:
Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was probably the most unrelenting critic of imagination who ever lived; he was ingenious, and he looked just like Captain Cook. He had lots of rational arguments, but one was especially effective at proving that there was a difference between thinking about something and imagining it. He instructed us to think about a figure with exactly a thousand sides of equal length. He called this a chiliagon.
The preceding sentence is part of several paragraphs cogitating on the meaning of "Born To Run."
The whole book is like this. I love Bruce Springsteen, and I will probably finish this book, but man, this book rips the bones from your back, it's a suicide rap. Skip it.
I've read (at least parts of) several of the titles in the "Popular culture and philosophy" series; unfortunately, despite the general value of this sort of work, the series is very uneven. This title, I am glad to say, being both an armchair philosopher and a semi-professional Bruce Springsteen fan, is among the best entries.
The best feature of this book is that each of the authors (among the chapters I have read so far) takes Bruce seriously as what he is: a rock n' roll musician and contemporary poet. There is no attempt to make Bruce into something he is not (this point is clearly made in the first chapter). Instead, the authors stay true to the themes and issues that Bruce himself explores in his songs. In contrast to many of the other books in the series, for example, there are no chapters concerning how Bruce does (or does not) capture some element of Plato's theory of knowledge. There are, however, chapters on the nature of work and labor, the importance of human connection, the nature of freedom, and the possibility of redemption. Anyone familiar with Bruce's music will recognize these themes in his lyrics and choice of material. These themes are, moreover, profoundly philosophical, regardless of whether Bruce's explorations are as 'deep' as those of professional philosophers. (Although I would insist, as do many of the authors, that Bruce's music, in a sense, has greater depth than any philosophical treatise could achieve.)
This book is also notable, among the "Popular culture" series, for its list of contributors, which includes several prominent interpreters of classic and modern American philosophy (particularly the pragmatist tradition). This list includes: Randall Auxier and Doug Anderson (editors and contributors), John Shook, and Scott Pratt. This is possibly the best selection of professional philosophers among any titles in the series (apart from Slavoj Zizek's contribution to "The Matrix"). But this selection is also important because there is a (mediated) connection between Bruce and classic American philosophy. Though I am not suggesting that Bruce has necessarily read James, Dewey, etc., I believe that both Bruce (and other musicians who could be classed in the same genre as Bruce - including perhaps Steve Earle, Tom Cochrane, John Mellencamp, and John Fogerty - call it 'heartland rock') and James et al. share common roots in the philosophy and literature of the American Renaissance: Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Melville...
A good book, in all - though definitely for a certain 'type' of Springsteen fan. There are chapters that should appeal to any fan, but, as I suggested above, one reason for Bruce's importance may be that he pursues philosophical issues in a profoundly non-philosophical medium.