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Walk Like a Man: Coming of Age with the Music of Bruce Springsteen

by Robert J. Wiersema

In Thomas Zimny’s 2010 documentary film, The Promise, Bruce Springsteen said that his 1978 album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, was an attempt to answer the question: how is it possible to live a creative life and also be a good person? This is also a central question for best-selling novelist, bookseller, and frequent Q&Q reviewer Robert J. Wiersema in this account of the intersection between his life and his love for Springsteen’s music. Wiersema’s memoir focuses on his childhood and early adulthood, and invites readers to view his life story through the lens of Springsteen’s music and biography.

Wiersema’s honesty, like Springsteen’s deeply romantic, idealistic motifs, is to be celebrated. Readers who appreciate Springsteen’s candid narratives about the irredeemable sadness of being an outsider in childhood (Springsteen was bullied and had trouble fitting in), and at odds with one’s family, will sympathize with Wiersema’s account of his own childhood fears and ostracization, as well as his descriptions of close male friendships, coming of age, and his love for his wife and child. Information about Springsteen’s difficulties with his managers, his triumphant record sales, and his personal life are interspersed with more detailed descriptions of Wiersema’s own financial struggles, the birth of his child, Xander, and the exhilarating moments he has experienced down in the pit at Springsteen’s concerts.

Wiersema frames his own life’s joys, milestones, and setbacks with Springsteen song lyrics, which appear as epigraphs or codas to chapters. But the autobiography of a 42-year-old Canadian from a small town is frankly too ordinary to hold much interest, and the story is not enhanced by its reliance on the deeply emotional engagement Springsteen fans obtain only from the music itself – its melody, harmony, and delivery.