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Mary Climbs In, by Lorraine Mangione and Donna Luff, is a fascinating read for any Springsteen fan and a valuable contribution to fan studies in general and Springsteen studies in particular.

Of the books about Springsteen that I have read I tend to prefer ones that offer more than just a rehash of his life and career and instead dive into some aspect of them. Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed those books, especially the ones with lots of photographs, but I want to know more. Whether about the fandom surrounding him or the impact he has had on people (including other celebrities), or the meanings (intended or not) behind his songs. This volume adds, maybe fills in some gaps would be better, to some of what I have read in the area of fan studies around Springsteen's lengthy career.

Mangione and Luff weave a wonderful mix of big picture (quantitative) assessments of his female fans with more personal (qualitative) stories. These personal stories are what, for me, make this a special volume. The stories both clarify the broad generalizations at the same time that they also muddy them. As they say, his fans as a whole are not monolithic, and the subset that are women is also not monolithic. One of the interesting intersections for me consists of where in the fan's life she discovers Springsteen and what that corresponding point is in his career. This isn't as straightforward as it seems. A fan may have become a fan in her 20s right after a life-altering event, and this might have been in 2000. But the album that made this happen might have been The River (1980), which is when he had become big but, arguably, before he became iconic (I think for many Born in the USA is what did that). Between the two came Nebraska (1984) that represents, in some ways, his own breakdown. So how does this new fan in 2000 experience the rest of his music that has already been made, not to mention interact with what is to come? I am not a woman, so even the similarities that might exist manifest differently for me than a woman of my age who became a fan at the same time. I remember hearing his first album while in high school just before Born to Run was released. At the time, 1975, I had not heard his second album and assumed BtR was the second. But that was the album that made me a fan, and from 1975 on I was a fan.

Don't take my personal mental excursion as a statement about what the book says, but about what the book might make you consider about fandom in general. The stories here cover a lot of ground, from life-changing to life-saving, from growing up with (meaning contemporaneously) his music to growing up with it because a parent had been a fan for years and introduced her at a young age.

For the general reader, this is an excellent read both for the stories and for the way it will have you revisiting your own experience as a fan, whether of Springsteen or someone else. Within academia, this advances and broadens the field of fan studies, showing how even the best research can be improved upon, and drilling deeper into the numbers can lead to some important revelations.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
… (més)
pomo58 | Jun 15, 2023 |


½ 4.5