Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Franzen on Bezos: 'One of the Four Horseman'

"In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the four horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world. But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to the people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels?"

--Jonathan Franzen in a Guardian essay called "What's Wrong with the Modern World"
(We recommend printing out the full article if you want to really get down into it--its 15 pages long!) 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bruce! The Winning Story

We had a fine time last Friday, hearing from  Christopher Phillips, editor of the new book Talk About a Dream: The Essential Interviews of Bruce Springsteen. Also in attendance that evening was Michele Lynn, who penned the winning story in our "Tell Us Your Favorite Springsteen Story" contest. As you can see from her story, Michele qualifies as a hard core Springsteen fan, having attended almost 50 of his live concerts. (But hey, there were people here Friday night who have been to over 100!). 

Here's Michele's story, which centers around the first concert she went to:

Growing up in a suburb of New York City, spending summer days at the Jersey Shore, I was a prime candidate to become a Springsteen fan.  I am happy to say that I fulfilled that destiny. 

During my senior year of high school, I had a crush on a boy who worshiped Bruce. So off I went to Korvette’s, a lower-rent cousin of Macy’s and Gimbel’s, to buy a Springsteen album.  I planned to play it nonstop so that when the aforementioned boy called on the phone, the background soundtrack could happen to be Springsteen. 

“Darkness on the Edge of Town” had recently been released so that record, featuring a tough-looking Bruce on its cover, was the one that accompanied me home.  And a funny thing happened – after playing the record a time or two, I was no longer keeping it on my turntable to impress a boy. I was listening to it because Bruce’s passion, music, and lyrics and the band’s musicianship touched something deep inside of me. 

A few years later, during my junior year of college in New York City, Springsteen brought “The River” tour to the Big Apple.  I knew that I had to go to the show with my best friends—identical twins with whom I had spent many hours listening to Bruce, deciding which one of us would marry him, and visiting the holy shrines of Madam Marie’s and the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.

But tickets sold quickly and we were shut out. Not to be deterred, on the opening night of the stand, we took the number 1 train down to Penn Station and walked over to the venue. Students with limited incomes, we found that the scalpers’ prices were out of our league. 

But we were determined. So we flashed our cutest college coed smiles at a hulking ticket taker and asked if we couldn’t just go in and stand for the show.  Our smiles weren’t enough but the $10 we each palmed to him did the trick.  A few minutes later, we found ourselves climbing  to the top of Madison Square Garden and waiting what seemed like an eternity until Bruce and the band came out on stage and ripped into “Born to Run.”

Nearly 33 years later, I still get chills when I remember the power and passion and unlimited promise that song heralded for me, Maddy, and Stephanie.  We stood and sang and danced together for the four hours of that concert and throughout many more Bruce concerts over the years. And every time I hear “Born to Run” in concert—and I have probably heard it live close to 50 times—I am still 19 years old, ready to take on life with all of its joys and adventures.

Oh, and the Springsteen fan who was the original reason I started to listen to Bruce?  He and I dated for some months and even attended our senior prom together. But while my romantic relationship with him is ancient history, my love affair with Bruce continues to this day.
--Michele Lynn