Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen review – inside the mind of the Boss

From the Guardian

This highly anticipated memoir is as rich in anecdote as it is in anguish. From shameful behaviour to life in therapy, the musician lays out his search for meaning

Sense of mission … Bruce Springsteen in Milan, 2012. Photograph: Olycom SPA/Rex Features


Several days into a late-summer road trip across the US, a man in his early 30s stops at dusk to observe a fair taking place in a small Texas town. A band is playing. A couple dance. “From nowhere,” the man recalls, “a despair overcomes me … right now, all I can think is that I want to be amongst them, of them, and I know I can’t. I can only watch. That’s what I do. I do not engage, and if and when I do, my terms are so stringent, they suck the lifeblood and possibility out of any good thing, any real thing.” A few days later, having reached home, he places a call. Bruce Springsteen is making his first appointment with a shrink.

“So began 30 years of one of the biggest adventures of my life, canvassing the squirrely terrain inside my own head for signs of life,” Springsteen writes at the midpoint of his autobiography, having set a scene that could have come from one of his darker ballads. Already he has introduced the reader to his troubled relationship with a Dutch-Irish father unable to escape a succession of blue-collar jobs – bus driver, prison guard, factory worker – in a nondescript part of New Jersey. It is in this harsh, cold, ungiving man that Springsteen locates the origin of his own flaws and fears.

“As a boy, I figured it was just the way men were, distant, uncommunicative, busy with the currents of the grown-up world.” And angry. At the wheel of a car, “I would use speed and recklessness to communicate my own rage … with the sole purpose of terrorising my rider. It was gross, bullying, violent and humiliating behaviour that filled me with shame afterward … Part of me was rebelliously proud of my emotionally violent behaviour, always aimed at the women in my life. It was all straight out of the old man’s playbook.” Late in life the father is forced to confront full-blown paranoid schizophrenia, but not before he has seen his son march into his house and place an Oscar statuette (awarded for the theme song to Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia) on the table. “I’ll never tell anybody what to do ever again,” the father declares, and the wounds begin to heal.

Read more at the Guardian

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