On September 27th my little brother biked eight miles to the nearest bookstore in the Colorado college town he inhabits, searching for Born to Run (2016). I, after leaving the library just past midnight in the small, Connecticut campus that I inhabit, got into bed and began reading the first pages of Bruce Springsteen’s colossal memoir.
“I am here to provide proof of life to that ever elusive, never completely believable ‘us,’” writes Springsteen. For me, this “us,” is my dad—who took me to my first Springsteen show when I was 12, my mom—who spins around in the convertible all summer long singing “Dancing in the Dark,” and my brother—who shares my penchant for the slower, more poetic nods in The Boss’s repertoire.
Any notion of an “us” feels hopelessly distant for Springsteen as the memoir opens. He begins with his childhood in Freehold, NJ, depicting the harsh and cold atmosphere of his father’s house. As he moves through his early days banging on his $69 guitar and continues on to mass stardom, Springsteen’s “us,” becomes less and less elusive as he begins to form a family through his music. Yet, all the while, Springsteen continues to feel lost within his own conceptions of masculinity and the frustrations of Mania and Depression; he searches for a steadying voice to calm his rebel spirit. Ultimately, Springsteen’s “us” becomes the family he nurtures with his wife, Patti, in addition to his musical community. I realize that every one of us implicated in his “us.”
When I lugged around this 510-page tomb at the beach during the Thanksgiving holiday, people asked me, “Did he have a ghost writer?” If you read just one page of this book, you’ll know the answer. Springsteen’s voice booms through the heavy pages with a lightness akin to the way he takes the microphone for each of his 3+ hour sets. The experience of reading Born to Run feels similar to listening to “Born to Run,” or to cresting the Hudson River on your first drive out East from Ohio with your father, fighting back tears at the very idea of growing up in search of that “Ever elusive, never completely believable ‘us.’” I fell asleep with the book heavy atop my chest, glasses still perched upon my nose, with the steadying voice of Springsteen’s “When You Need Me” humming from my Bluetooth speakers, and thinking of my little brother out West. I’m thankful that neither distance nor the process of growing up messes with our “us,” and I remain hopeful for the endless possibilities the future may add to my own “us.”
Linne Halpern '18 is an English and American Studies double major at Wesleyan University. She is co-founder and editor of Reverberations.
Born To Run
Written by: Bruce Springsteen
Published by: Simon and Schuster