Bruce Springsteen’s new memoir “Born to Run” is a lyrically beautiful recollection of New Jersey, music — and demons. A lucky group of ticketholders will see The Boss at Elliott Bay Book Co. on Oct. 1.
The first time I ever visited Asbury Park, N.J., I bought a $10 ticket and saw Bruce Springsteen jam with a local band at the Stone Pony. For a young fan, it was a reminder of how the Asbury music scene treated everyone as equals. In that way, and maybe that way only, it was a bit like Seattle.
In nearby Freehold, I also saw the house Springsteen was raised in, across the street from a church. He had written about the church’s shadow in songs, but without seeing it with my own eyes I never understood the significance of the proximity.
Springsteen’s memoir “Born to Run” (Simon & Schuster, 528 pp., $32.50) begins on that street, and he takes us on a journey that is both external and internal. People from Freehold, he tells us, “do their best to hold off the demons that seek to destroy.”
The author of “Born to Run” will appear at noon Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; sold out (206-624-6600 or elliottbaybook.com).
The venerable rock star will be in Seattle on Saturday (Oct. 1) at Elliott Bay Book Co. for what is called an “appearance” — he’ll be giving a signed copy of the new book to each person there and offering the opportunity for a selfie. There will be no reading from the book, nor will Springsteen perform. The event has long been sold out and tickets are going for $600 on StubHub.
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In his memoir, Springsteen calls depression “the prize in the Cracker Jack box in our family,” and he details his father’s struggles with schizophrenia. Rock ’n’ roll is only a temporary escape, a bit of a “magic trick,” one that allows him to hide from himself.
The church across the street makes him an artist. In Catholicism he finds “poetry, danger and darkness that reflected my imagination and my inner self.” He eventually gets a guitar, and with it a way out.
The book is nearly halfway over before “Born to Run,” the song, makes an appearance. This is just three years and three albums into a recording career that will stretch for another 40 years, and 15 more studio albums. The rest of that story goes by quickly, in some places too rapidly.
The breakup (ultimately temporary) of the E Street Band is covered in three paragraphs and his four-year first marriage gets only five paragraphs. And yet those paragraphs — about how Springsteen essentially failed as a husband, and as a person — are so meticulously crafted they could have come from a Richard Ford novel. This is the greatest triumph of “Born to Run” — that Springsteen captures in autobiography the same lyricism he does with songwriting.
On the matter of those demons, he is less successful. But the way he describes the battle is so beautifully written that “Born to Run” is a prize among rock autobiographies.
Springsteen’s father comes to his son’s first wedding, but appears as a vision from Bruce’s childhood: “My dad sat smoking at a picnic table, looking as if he’d been lifted by a crane out of his … kitchen and set down unruffled in a field in Lake Oswego.”
That helps explain why Springsteen felt the need to run in the first place. And then his father utters a line that is the perfect epitaph.
“Bruce,” Douglas Springsteen deadpans, “look what you’ve done now.”