Bear with me here, because I realize the connection between UConn Reads and Bruce Springsteen isn’t obvious…
The July 30th New Yorker includes a long, detailed profile of Bruce Springsteen. I’m not a hardcore Springsteen fan, but I have a sense of generational and regional connection to his music, having grown up in the Tri-state area in the seventies. In fact, reading the profile made me remember the first time I heard a Bruce Springsteen song as a kid. The song was “Born to Run” – it must have been the summer of 1975 – and I remember my sister going over to the boxy radio taking up too much space on the kitchen counter to turn the big dials, tuning up the station and turning up the sound. Because that song sounded different. If my musical tastes soon ran more to the B-52s and Blondie, I stayed tuned in to Springsteen along the way, and I admire his artistic and political commitment.
The New Yorker profile focuses in particular on the concert experience, about which Springsteen had this to say: “For an adult the world is constantly trying to clamp down on itself. Routine, responsibility, decay of institutions, corruption: this is all the world closing in. Music, when it’s really great, pries that s*** back open and lets people back in, it lets light in, and air in, and energy in, and sends people home with that and sends me back to the hotel with it. People carry that with them sometimes for a very long period of time.”
I was struck by this statement and kept thinking about the ways it could apply to any of the arts: not only music, but also literature, theatre, visual art, film – any of the arts can create the kind of transcendent experience that Springsteen is talking about, taking us out of ourselves and recalibrating our connection to the world. When it’s a collective experience, like a concert or play, that effect can be amplified.
And this is what UConn Reads can do for us: UConn Reads provides us with an opportunity to make the experience of literature – which is often a solitary experience – a collective one. I don’t know that we’ll have thirty or forty thousand screaming fans in a stadium for our events, but we’ll be able to create that communal energy and collective insight on a smaller scale. And that’s important, too, whether it’s two sisters sharing a song in a suburban kitchen, or a group of readers avidly discussing a novel on a college campus.