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

Paperback | September 2, 2011

byRobert Wiersema

not yet rated|write a review

A frank, funny, and inventive blend of biography, music criticism, and memoir told in thirteen tracks.

As he enters his sixties, Bruce Springsteen remains a paragon of all that is cool in the world of rock. He's a genuine voice of the people, the bastard child of Woody Guthrie and James Brown, and an elder statesman who has inspired generations of bands. He's won twenty Grammy Awards, an Oscar, two Golden Globes, and is a member of two Halls of Fame.

There are dozens of books about Springsteen. What's left to say? Nothing objective, perhaps. But when it comes to music, objectivity is highly overrated. Robert Wiersema has been a Springsteen fan since he was a teenager, following tours to see multiple shows in a row, watching set lists develop in real time via the Internet, ordering bootlegs from shady vendors in Italy. His attachment is deeper than fandom, though: he's grown up with Springsteen's songs as the soundtrack to his life, beginning with his youth in rural British Columbia and continuing on through dreams of escape, falling in love, and becoming a father.

Walk Like a Man is the liner notes for a mix tape, a blend of biography, music criticism, and memoir. Like the best mix tapes, it balances joy and sorrow, laughter seasoning the dark-night-of-the-soul questions that haunt us all. Wiersema's book is the story of a man becoming a man (despite getting a little lost along the way), and of Springsteen's songs and life that have accompanied him on his journey.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$21.94 online
$21.95 list price
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25

From the Publisher

A frank, funny, and inventive blend of biography, music criticism, and memoir told in thirteen tracks.As he enters his sixties, Bruce Springsteen remains a paragon of all that is cool in the world of rock. He's a genuine voice of the people, the bastard child of Woody Guthrie and James Brown, and an elder statesman who has inspired gen...

Robert J. Wiersema is an independent bookseller, a reviewer who contributes regularly to several national newspapers, and the best-selling author of two novels: Before I Wake and Bedtime Story. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

other books by Robert Wiersema

Before I Wake
Before I Wake

Paperback|Jun 12 2007

$19.95

Seven Crow Stories
Seven Crow Stories

Paperback|Sep 28 2016

$19.98 online$19.99list price
Black Feathers
Black Feathers

Paperback|Aug 11 2015

$22.71 online$24.99list price(save 9%)
see all books by Robert Wiersema
Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.5 inPublished:September 2, 2011Publisher:Greystone Books Ltd.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1553658450

ISBN - 13:9781553658450

Reviews

Extra Content

Read from the Book

10. Brilliant Disguise On April 4, 2005, Bruce Springsteen took the stage of the Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey, for a performance unlike any he had ever given. As part of VH1's "Storytellers" series, he appeared on a bare stage, with only his songbook, a harmonica, a piano and a guitar. Springsteen had performed solo and acoustic previously - for the Ghost of Tom Joad tour, for example, which took him around the world. And he had done an audience question-and-answer period before, at the two concerts he performed in support of Double Take magazine in Somerville, Massachussetts, in early 2003. But the "Storytellers" performance was different by design. It wasn't just a concert, it was an inquiry into process, inspiration, and creation. As the series title suggests, it was to be an evening's worth of stories, and Springsteen delivered. Over the course of almost two hours, he dissected eight songs spanning his career, discussing his songwriting process and laying bare both his craft and his soul. As he takes the stage, Springsteen is clearly uncomfortable. He cops to the strangeness of discussing his creative process by describing it as "an iffy proposition," then continues, "Talking about music is like talking about sex. Can you describe it? Are you supposed to?" His opening comments on "Devils and Dust" are stilted and clearly scripted. As the show progresses, however, he seems to find his groove, and he makes some stunning disclosures. Most significant among these is his discussion of how his public and private faces interact, during his introduction to "Brilliant Disguise." "We all have multiple selves," he says. "That's just the way we're built. We've got sort of this public self, this public face we show to others. I'm wearing mine right now." He recounts his fondness for strip clubs and mentions the two people who object to his going: his wife and "that holier-than-thou bastard Bruce Springsteen." He goes on to describe a meeting with fans as he leaves a strip club, one of whom remarks, "Bruce, you're not supposed to be here." His response - that he's a figment of Springsteen's self and that "Bruce doesn't even know I'm missing" is surreal, with the ring of truth. He then remarks on how "Brilliant Disguise" has changed for him over time, from a song about the separation of identities to a hymn of communion. "When you sing the song with somebody you love it turns into something else, I think. It becomes a song of a reaffirmation of the world's mysteries, its shadows, our frailties and the acceptance of those frailties, without which there is no love." The version of the song which follows, which he sings with Patti Scialfa, is haunting. There are still secrets, still questions, it says, but there always will be. That's the nature of the world. Public faces, private lives. It's true for all of us. # # # It's about four hours' drive from the Peace Arch border crossing to Portland, Oregon, on a good day. Add in the drive time from the ferry, and the wait at the border, and you're looking at five plus. Greg was waiting for me when I walked out of the ferry terminal. It was late afternoon, August. High summer, and the heat felt like a wall coming out of the air- conditioned building. It was less than two weeks into the tour for "The Rising," and we were doing back-to-back shows, Portland and Tacoma. Springsteen Inc. was trying something new with this tour: a general admission floor, with a fenced-off area in front of the stage for the first 300 or so fans in line. We were determined to be in the pit, and that meant taking a day off work to wait in line. Sometimes it's hard to tell how things begin. Was it going out for pie at the Lakeview Diner when I was home for weekends during university? Was it those afternoons on the beach, with our broken hearts and our woman-hating music? Was it before that, back in Home Ec, talking about heavy metal and jerking off? Where did the Circle of Men begin? The Circle of Men is a term Greg thought of, years ago, and it comes with its own rules. Chief among them is that nothing leaves the Circle: what is talked about over pie, or in the dark, stays there. (I'm adhering to that, by the way. Greg will read these pages first, and anything you read here has been released willingly from the Circle.) I've discovered, over the years, that I don't really do casual acquaintances. I don't have so-so friends. I gravitate toward intense, frank friendships. Greg and Peter and me? Nothing is off the table. No truth too hard, no secret too deep. It started off casually enough that evening, talking about the live Springsteen show we were listening on the drive. But when we got to "All That Heaven Will Allow," one of the sweetest, most nakedly romantic songs from "Tunnel of Love," the conversation turned personal. "So what are your five biggest regrets?" Greg asked me. I thought for a moment. "I don't regret anything I've done," I said, staring out at the lights and the darkness. "The things I didn't do " "Jenn," he said, correctly, with the certainty reserved for old friends. "What about you?" He had a list. When he was done, it was my turn to ask a question. "What are the best things you've done?" He talked about going to grad school, moving into the hinterland to get teaching experience. He talked about his daughters. The night continued like that, swapping questions back and forth. What's the worst thing you've ever done? If you could do one thing over? What was your worst moment? We talked about everything. Nothing was off the table. We talked about the frustrations of the day-to-day, about being fathers, what had surprised us and what hadn't. We talked about our sex lives, how things were different now that there were babies in the house, how things were after pregnancy and childbirth. We were completely candid, completely open. Except I wasn't. It's strange. Greg knows more about me than just about anyone in the world, but I froze. He knows every dirty thing I've ever done, every shame, every failing, and he has never, not once, judged or scorned. But I couldn't tell him how I was feeling. I couldn't tell him how scared I was, how uncertain. My wife, Cori, seemed to do everything so naturally, and the new fathers we knew seemed to take to it so effortlessly, while I stumbled at every turn. It wasn't just the practicalities: I had no idea how to be. How did I get out of my own head enough to really connect with the little boy who was looking to me? How did I put myself aside in favour of someone else? "So when you look at me you better look hard and look twice Is that me baby or just a brilliant disguise?"

Table of Contents

Introduction Side One: Growin' Up 1. Rosalita (Come out Tonight) 2. My Hometown 3. It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City 4. Badlands 5. Born to Run 6. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) 7. Thundercrack Side Two: Human Touch 8. Tunnel of Love 9. Living Proof 10. Brilliant Disguise 11. The Rising 12. Dancing in the Dark 13. Jesus Was an Only Son Bonus Track: Atlantic City - The Hold Steady

Editorial Reviews

"Walk Like a Man: Coming of Age with the Music of Bruce Springsteen succeeds on multiple levels both as music writing and as a reflective story of how to navigate manhood...Wiersema did not write Walk Like a Man for teens but by focusing so much of it on his years growing up in rural British Columbia, it is a title that speaks to all of us of the powerlessness of youth and the longing for more that also permeates much of Springsteen's music. The author could not be more removed from the singer's experience (BC is about as far as it gets from New Jersey without crossing an ocean) and yet Wiersema easily shows how Springsteen's music resonated with every aspect of his young adulthood. The trick to the writing is that he not only makes the comparisons between the two of them believable, he makes you realize just how much you might have in common with both men as well." --Bookslut "[Walk Like a Man is] a fun read, and a strong reminder of why Springsteen is as popular as he is. Wiersema is particularly good at charting the highs and lows (he is not so gobsmacked as to not be able to see that there are lows), and putting the various aspects of Springsteen's career into a wider context." -- Globe and Mail "The book is the story of a man becoming a man (despite getting a little lost along the way), and of the music that accompanied him on his journey." -- Toronto Quarterly "What Wiersema has really created is his own brilliant disguise. Springsteen's songs didn't teach him how to walk like a man; no more than they did me. Rather they were there, as a soundtrack to his life, as he learned." --  The National "If writing about music is, in fact, akin to dancing about architecture, Robert J. Wiersema might have a two-step in his future. With Walk Like A Man, the Victoria-based novelist...ventures into previously uncharted territory: non-fiction, with a music nerd twist, thanks to the ever-present role that rock’s working class hero, Bruce Springsteen, has played in Wiersema’s life. Using the venerable icon’s lengthy discography, Wiersema has crafted the ultimate memoir mixtape, with enought wit and honesty to convince even the haters to give the Boss a second chance." -- Vancouver WestEnder "Wiersema ought to be commended for grabbing one non-fan's attention and maintaining his interest. The Victoria-based bookseller and bestselling novelist's unique biography/memoir/love letter is a hardcore connoisseur's enthusiastic take on the life and music of Springsteen and, more generally, a warm ode to the singular ""power of music." -- Vancouver Sun "In his darkest mid-life days, author Robert J. Wiersema rediscovered Bruce Springsteen, and found rapture." --The Tyee "The highest accolade I can give [Walk Like a Man] is that it made me revisit Springsteen. It made me listen to albums I was only vaguely aware of and read the critics' dispatches of the day...it is the author's talent that he makes us look at a major international artist anew and through different eyes." - Victoria Times Colonist "Wiersema...riffs with alacrity." -- Toronto Star "[Walk Like a Man] is a touching and intimate look into one man's life, it also brings up bigger questions of fandom, of the public façade of celebrity, of the difference between art and artist." -- Exclaim.ca “Walk Like a Man beautifully and accurately describes the way that rock and roll and fandom can touch and change our lives.” -- Craig Finn, The Hold Steady "Walk like a Man gives us one man's Boss, served up the way it should be-obsessive, penetrating, and rapturous. Wiersema is no critic, but an articulate every-fan who taps the Springsteen zeitgeist as it radiates from the music into his own life." -- Joel Selvin, senior pop music correspondent, San Francisco Chronicle "Walk like a Man is about growing up, getting old, and being lucky enough to have a treasured soundtrack to make sense of it all." -- Ray Robertson, author of David and Moody Food "This September, Victoria's Robert Wiersema goes public with his own mixtape...Walk Like a Man is a book -- a combination of memoir and musings on how he's been affected by the music of Bruce Springsteen. In true mixtape style, Wiersema wraps each chapter around a Springsteen song. There are 13, as well as a bonus track. For greater mixtape verisimilitude, the songs are divided into 'side one' and a 'side two.'" -- Victoria Times-Colonist