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Bruce Springsteen's America: The People Listening, A Poet Singing Paperback – November 9, 2004
From Publishers Weekly
The best part of this disappointing work is the dissection of Springsteen's lyrics but Coles's bid to highlight average Americans' interpretation of the Boss's songs falls short on several levels. Many of what are essentially oral interviews with about a dozen everyday Americans-from truck drivers to lawyers-are rambling and at times barely coherent. Curiously, many of the songs they discussed come from Springsteen's Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad, two of Springsteen's least popular albums. The focus on these solo albums may have been a conscious decision by Coles (The Moral Intelligence of Children; Children of Crisis) since they fit his attempt to portray Springsteen as a singer/poet in the manner of Arlo Guthrie, but it leaves out much of Springsteen's best material. And worst of all, the interviews, complete with short biographies of the people featured, generally offer little insight. The liveliest piece is one in which a teacher and her students discuss the messages in several Springsteen songs. Although fans may find themselves singing some of Springsteen's lyrics that appear in the book, the work is mostly full of flat notes.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In an unusual pairing, famous child psychologist Coles pays homage to rock musician Springsteen. In two long essays that serve, in effect, as a foreword, Coles quotes the late novelist Walker Percy on Springsteen's wide appeal: "His songs are about America, without hyping the country up and without knocking the country down. . . . he sings of us while singing to us." Furthermore, Coles connects Springsteen to another New Jersey native, William Carlos Williams, calling them poets of ordinary American people. And in the sections that follow, that point is underscored as people from all walks of life talk in loving detail, as if they were in a conversation with Springsteen himself, about the musician's lyrics. A cop takes issue with the portrayal of law enforcement in "Highway Patrolman"; a grandmother is moved to tears by the love song "If I Should Fall Behind"; an affluent pre-med student is carried back to the Depression by "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Plainspoken and poignant, their uplifting comments continuously circle the bedrock issues of family, community, and work. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Unfortunately, a major problem I had with this book was that the voices Coles chose to include sound very much the same, almost as if one person was doing the writing/speaking and attributing it to different people. Nearly every account has a comment along the lines of "this guy, the Boss, they call him, this Springsteen guy....." which to me sounds like a line from a film. Beyond that, aside from the very first account (a teacher discussing her class going from Wild Billy's Circus Story to the Nebraska album), these people (person?) are speaking but no one seems to quite be saying anything. People recall various lines of songs but few give any insight into themselves as people, as the people Bruce sings about, or how these songs really relate to them aside from being able to recognize some biblical references.
I would suggest that anyone looking to this book as any sort of scholarly work should instead purchase a copy of Jim Cullen's excellent treatment of the way Springsteen, Woody Guthrie and Walt Whitman relate to the country, the world, and each other. And pick up a copy of the aforementioned Terkel book to 'really' hear the way Bruce Springsteen's America speaks. The people interviewed in Working may never mention Bruce Springsteen by name, but they are the characters who populate his work and our lives, much more so than those presented (or portrayed?) in this new book.
'Then, to boot, he (the writer) slips into, and then out of, archaic use of language--English being the language. I dropped the book, after 20 pages (including the introduction), so I can't comment on the content, or the quality of it (the content), other then that he (the writer) seems to be intent on promoting his (the writer's) friendship with William Carlos Williams.'
Given the long list of publications associated with this writer my thought is that he is cranking out whatever might sell. A picture of Bruce Springsteen and his name in the title assures at least a few hundred thousand dollars. Fortunately, I picked this book up free.....think I'll take it out of circulation via the trash can and save the suffering of a few souls.