It turns out Bruce Springsteen has very Dish-y taste in literature. Here’s how he recently answered an interviewer’s question about the one book that made him who he is today:
One would be difficult, but the short stories of Flannery O’Connor landed hard on me. You could feel within them the unknowability of God, the intangible mysteries of life that confounded her characters, and which I find by my side every day. They contained the dark Gothicness of my childhood and yet made me feel fortunate to sit at the center of this swirling black puzzle, stars reeling overhead, the earth barely beneath us.
More of his favorites:
I like the Russians, the Chekhov short stories, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I never read any of them until the past four years, and found them to be thoroughly psychologically modern. Personal favorites: “The Brothers Karamazov” and, of course, “Anna Karenina.”
Current favorites: Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy and Richard Ford. It’s hard to beat “American Pastoral,” “I Married a Communist” and “Sabbath’s Theater.” Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” remains a watermark in my reading. It’s the combination of Faulkner and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns that gives the book its spark for me. I love the way Richard Ford writes about New Jersey. “The Sportswriter,” “Independence Day” and “The Lay of the Land” are all set on my stomping grounds and, besides being poignant and hilarious, nail the Jersey Shore perfectly.
Paul Elie offers more on Springsteen’s connection to O’Connor:
Little-known fact: In the last months of his life Walker Percy, prompted by his nephew Will, wrote what he called a “fan letter of sorts” to Springsteen – whom he called “one of the few sane guys in your field.” He asked the Boss about “your spiritual journey,” and in particular about “your admiration for Flannery O’Connor. She was a dear friend of mine,” he told Springsteen, “though a more heroic Catholic than I.”
In a 1997 interview in DoubleTake (it figures into The Life You Save May Be Your Own) Springsteen told the nephew what O’Connor meant to him in the voice familiar from his long on-mike introductions to songs like “The Promised Land”:
There was something in those stories of hers that I felt captured a certain part of the American character that I was interested in writing about. They were a big, big revelation … There was some dark thing – a component of spirituality – that I sensed in her stories, and that sent me off exploring on my own.
And me on mine. And you on yours – as with Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which Springsteen likes to read on a summer’s day on the front porch.