Good Omens (TV series)
Dostoevsky's Demons Revisited

I Judge This Book By the Cover

I was in my local independent bookstore one day last week. I don't go there very often, even though I am happy they've survived and even prospered (though book sales are not their only revenue), and I want them to continue to do so. There just aren't many current books that I have much interest in, so I don't go unless I have some specific reason. I had been there several weeks earlier for some Christmas shopping (which proved to be futile), and discovered that they had a copy of Alfred Corn's new translation of Rilke's Duino Elegies.

I was surprised to see it, as the store's poetry section is very small and not very interesting. And I've been wanting to read this translation, but was in a hurry and there was a long line at the cash register, so I didn't buy it at the time. Figuring, correctly, that it would probably still be there after Christmas, I went back to get it.

I could not miss the many copies of this book, very prominently displayed:


The idea that these two very successful, very rich, very honored, very influential and in Obama's case directly powerful, men are in any conceivable sense "renegades" is just too much. That the title was chosen, and approved if not proposed by the two, reveals the way left-liberal America still sees itself, in spite of its commanding cultural position, as a band of plucky rebels challenging a repressive establishment. I guess that still generates a lot of energy.

A few years ago there was a TV commercial, for what I don't know, which involved an older white man, a stereotypical old-school corporate executive, bragging about getting some sort of special deal (sorry, I really don't have any idea what it was about). He says to a subordinate "It's my way of sticking it to the man." 

"But sir," says the subordinate. "You are the man." Exactly.


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I of course have a completely different reaction to that book cover. I respect both of them so much I feel like I should buy it....but then it would probably not be interesting to me so I don't. ;-)

It’s not that I don’t respect them, although I don’t think very highly of Obama. But by no criterion can they be considered renegades. Springsteen in his early days, maybe. Obama not really at all.

I'd never buy that book, although I may get it from the library and skim it at some point. It might be somewhat interesting if it didn't veer too much into the mutually self-congratulatory. I once tried to read a memoir of Senator Arlen Specter's and there was so much self-praise in it that I had to put it down.

But you are correct -- these two are "renegades" only in the very limited Frank Sinatra "My Way" sense, and probably not even that.

When I moved to Mobile back in 2002 a friend suggested that I read Jimmy Buffet's autobiography, A Pirate Looks at Fifty I think it was called. I got about half-way through and it is the MOST self-congratulatory and self-satisfied thing I have ever read. For several years after I sort of couldn't stand Buffet due to this, but 20 years on I've sort of gotten over it. Don't these people have editors?

I follow the YouTube page of a PhD in Literature student in England because he posts videos on many many books that I love. There was this one video where he talked about books he does not review on his channel and one of the categories was non-fiction. He flippantly said, "they are all lies anyway" LOL sort of what I think too.

I'm slightly surprised to hear that about Buffet's book. I've had the impression that he was a pretty down-to-earth sort. But then his was the only concert I've ever left early. I started to say "walked out of" but it wasn't that I was offended, just bored and mildly exasperated. It was when "Margaritaville" was a big hit, and it was a big University of Alabama audience. They would clap and scream every time Buffet said the word "beer" or anything to do with drinking. And Buffet seemed to pretty much pander to them. I finally said "enough of this" and left.

The thing about the Springsteen-Obama book is that it's oversized, more coffee table than shelf size. And then I was seeing about thirty copies at once. With the size, the photos, and the title, it just sort of shouted "narcissism."

Something I just learned -- the US Secret Service's code name for Pres. Obama was "Renegade". So I suppose it's possible that the title of that book could be some kind of play on that.

Could be. In any case, it's pretty funny. And indicative of the secret of Obama's success with a lot of white liberals, giving them that sense of participating in something adventurous while actually being just like them, and perfectly safe.

I think it's also interesting to think how each of them might see his own status as enhanced by his connection to the other. E.g., Springsteen, by being close to someone powerful; Obama, by being close to someone who is cool.

Heh. Very good point. Obama has always kind of done that, talking to the fawning press about the music he likes, which is always super cool. And Springsteen seems to have some kind of desire to bring his wisdom to bear on politics. I think it was the Super Bowl last year where he had a very elaborately produced video about bringing the country together. Somehow always ends up being Democrat positions that are the true American ones.

Just for the record btw I must say that I really loved several of Springsteen's early albums. As is the case with me and many pop musicians, I pretty much quit following him after those. I haven't heard them for a long time but am pretty sure I'd still like them.

For the most part I like a song here and there from Springsteen. But Nebraska was an amazing album.

I only heard that a few times and have meant to go back to it. I was very impressed. That was over thirty years ago.

I think Nebraska was the last album of his that I liked. I lost interest with Born in the U.S.A., although it had a few good tracks. It struck me as too polished and slick. I did hear some good things about Tunnel of Love but never have listened to it.

Obama is definitely the last cool president, Mac! These past two are simply a good argument for having an age limit on the office.

Tunnel of Love IMHO is the last great Springsteen album. Everything after is fine, he is a very talented artist, but not essential at all. Nebraska is one to keep returning to, that's for sure, but nothing beats Born to Run! :-)

_Born to Run_ is tops for epicness, but _The Wild, the Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle_ is tops for instrumental playing that sounds gritty and unpolished but that is in fact quite careful and thoughtful.

I'm a Darkness on the Edge of Town guy, with Born to Run in the second spot.

All three of those albums are so darn good, it really is splitting hairs!

Keeping in mind that I haven't heard any of them since sometime in the 1980s, I would rate E Street and Born to Run about even, Darkness somewhat lower. I never actually heard the first album, the Asbury Park one. And the only one after Darkness that I heard was Nebraska. Which, as I said, I think is really good and deserves more attention than I've given it.

A friend of mine discovered Springsteen when the E Street album came out, and got me equally enthused. We went to see him about the time Born To Run came out, right before he hit it really big. It was one of the two or three best rock concerts I've ever attended. Saw him a couple of years later, and the crowd was twice as big--in fact he said something like "Where were y'all the last time I was here?" and it was good, but not as exciting. Also one of the few concerts I've ever attended that I wished would have been shorter. It went on for, iirc, over three hours, and we (my friend and I) were ready for it to be over after about two, just because it was so relentless loud and hard-hitting.

Asbury Park is great too, Mac. It is different from these others mentioned, a little more raw. Seek out "Blinded by the Light" (later covered by Manfred Mann) online to listen to. It is all sort of like that.

We haven't mentioned The River, which is the other outstanding album in his ouevre.

I saw him in concert twice, and both times I was ready to leave before the die-hards. Two hours seems like more than enough LOL - but both were great shows.

Some interesting tidbits in this article about Springsteen at American Conservative:

This says something similar to what I was trying to say about Renegades:

'Green recorded rock star Alice Cooper’s observation that asking a rock star about politics is like asking the garbage man about nuclear physics. That hasn’t stopped Springsteen from taking part in Renegades, a recent podcast featuring him and President Obama. Writer and musician Kit Wilson noted the fly in the ointment of the original idea: having “two attractive, highly successful, almost maddeningly cool men” talking “about being outsiders, all the while trading chummy stories about exclusive parties at the White House and backslapping each other.”'

I didn't like "Blinded By the Light" at all (the Manfred Mann version, which was on the radio) which I guess is a big part of the reason why I never sought out the Asbury Park album.

I don't know if it's true about all those podcast conversations that are in the book, but I just read the transcript of the first one and it's retrospective -- they don't talk about being outsiders now, but about they felt like outsiders as kids.

Didn't we all.

I grew up in Oklahoma, so, yes. (S. E. Hinton reference)

I had to look that up. I’ve heard of the book but never read it.

In any case, both Obama and Springsteen have been more than adequately compensated for whatever alienation they felt when they were growing up. They've both been more or less worshipped by millions and are both quite wealthy.

To be clear, btw, my recoil from the book's title and cover is not a dismissal of anything related to their early lives, but of the implication that they are currently in any reasonable sense "renegades." I don't know if y'all read that AmCon article I linked to, but it's about the fact that Springsteen just sold his catalog to Sony for $500,000,000. The writer is disappointed that he "sold out." I don't especially see it that way. I mean, the guy has been really rich for a long time, and this is just a really rich guy taking care of his business interests.

I once read a profile of Chris Christie that included the reporter attending a Springsteen concert with Christie. He's a big fan, but when the concert pauses for Springsteen to talk to the fans, Christie rolls his eyes and says something like, "Here's the part where a multi-millionaire tells sixty thousand people who could afford $120 for a ticket and $40 for a t-shirt that he feels their poverty."

Seems like I read somewhere that Christie tried to kind of buddy up with Springsteen and was rebuffed. I may well be wrong about that but if it’s true it would probably have stung and inclined Christie to cynicism.

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