Archive for December, 2009

#41 Down Thunder Road: The Making of Bruce Springsteen by Marc Eliot

December 7, 2009

This book, written “with the assistance” of embittered former Springsteen manager Mike Appel, is an interesting early career history of The Boss, although it does tend to focus on the struggle amongst Appel, Springsteen, Jon Landau and Columbia Records to control the cash cow which was mid-to-late 1970’s Springsteen music.

The book is interesting for its view of a very naive young Bruce, signing one bad business deal after another and later having to reap the consequences of same. I do give Eliot and Appel credit for not slamming Springsteen entirely. Most of Appel’s scorn is resolved for Jon Landau, who he definitely seems to paint as the Yoko Ono of 1975 Springsteen (although mercifully without the nude album cover). Appel is very defensive in the book about his role in helping to craft the genius of Springsteen. Ultimately, it seems to me, there is plenty of credit to go around.

I recently read that in Buffalo, at the last show of Bruce’s latest tour, he acknowledged Appel from the stage and indicated that his first album never would have happened without Appel. In fact, Appel and his son were on hand as special guests, and were apparently afforded the royal treatment. I can’t pretend that Bruce Springsteen isn’t a human being. I do give him credit for being a little quicker to recognize that fact than most of his peers and contemporaries.

Eliot’s book is interesting. It wasn’t as negative as I thought, but I do still commend Dave Marsh’s Springsteen books as the best of their type. Start there… but if you wonder sometimes if you’re getting the whole story, you might check this book out.



#40 A Magnificent Catastrophe by Edward Larson

December 7, 2009

Larson’s book is in regard to the 1800 US Presidential Election. Thomas Jefferson ultimately defeated John Adams in the first change of power between political parties in American history. This was also the election which appeared to begin such modern staples as the two party system, public campaigning, and of conservatives accusing liberals of being Godless infidels, and of liberals accusing conservatives of trying to set up an aristocracy which governed in its own interests.

While I was familiar with the basic details of this election, Larson digs into primary sources and brings Hamilton, Burr, Adams, Jefferson, Pinckney and others to life. 1800 was a troubled time for a young America, and it is refreshing to see that then as now, candidates quickly resorted to turning on each other like wild dogs to try to salvage the problems of the day.

As a new country, it was essential for America to survive this election with a peaceful transition of power. It did so and, more or less, hasn’t looked back. Larson’s book is an entertaining and relatively quick story of a nation on the brink of major trouble, saved from same by the same combination of democractic virtue and luck which triumph still, more or less.


#39- Committed: Confessions of a Fantasy Football Junkie by Mark St. Amant

December 7, 2009

Mark St. Amant quit his job and seemingly dedicated his life to trying to win his fantasy football league. If you think it sounds crazy, you’d be right. So the truth is that he quit his job to write this book about quitting his job to try to win his fantasy football league. Which is mildly more sane– if only by comparison.

Fantasy football, for the uninitiated, consists of “drafting” real (NFL) football players to imaginary teams. The statistics which said players compile in their actual NFL games are weighed against other players, and the team “owners” or “general managers” gain points for the statistical achievements of their particular players.

As a hobby, it’s slightly less nerdy than fighting each other with plastic light sabres or playing Dungeons & Dragons style fantasy card games.

It is, strangely, incredibly popular. I have been part of various and sundry fantasy football leagues for years. Mostly, they were an excuse for a group of my friends to make fun of each other. St. Amant means business, which is kind of amusing and, admittedly, kind of pathetic.

The book is a fun read, if rather light. I am torn on the end result. Part of me buys in to a live and let live sort of credo– if it makes people happy, no matter how nerdy it is, good for them. The other part of me realizes that if 2% of the energy used on fantasy football was instead diverted to something real and meaningful, the world would be a much better place. Of course, you could say the same thing about reading 50 new books in a year.