Reason has not been the most receptive audience to the dulcet prose stylings of New Republic lifer Leon Wieseltier. (Uncharitable example from Tim Cavanaugh, circa 2004: "[W]ho the hell is Wieseltier, who edits the most boring cultural page outside the old Pravda, who keeps dinosaurs like Jed Perl and Stanley Kaufman on the range, whose magazine is a laughingstock, and whose own essays read like five-page throat clearings (best read aloud, I've always found, in the fake "old man" voice Joseph Cotten uses for his nursing home scene in Citizen Kane), to be calling [William F.] Buckley ridiculous?")
But if you've ever found yourself wishing for an acid-tongued corrective to the never-ending story of boomer liberal journalists swooning over the barky-throated populism of Bruce Springsteen, Wieseltier has written what might be the definitive version. Sample:
"HE IS THE RARE man of sixty-two who is not shy about showing his ass—an ass finely sausaged into a pair of alarmingly tight black jeans—to twenty thousand paying customers." This panting observation about a rock star was committed by the editor of The New Yorker. I miss Eichmann in Jerusalem, almost. David Remnick's 75,000-word profile of Bruce Springsteen is another one of his contributions to the literature of fandom. Once again there is a derecho of detail and the conventional view of his protagonist, the official legend, is left undisturbed. It could have been written by the record company. The interminable thing is an inventory of Springsteen (and rock) platitudes, punctuated by the fleeting acknowledgment of a dissent about the deity, but much more interested in access than in judgment. "Springsteen Survives," the cover of the magazine triumphantly proclaims. Survives what? When Remnick turns from reporting to commentary, the earnestness becomes embarrassing, which is to say, fully the match of the earnestness of his subject [...]
DO THESE MEN HAVE ears? The musical decline of Bruce Springsteen has been obvious for decades. The sanctimony, the grandiosity, the utterly formulaic monumentality; the witlessness; the tiresome recycling of those anthemic figures, each time more preposterously distended; the disappearance of intimacy and the rejection of softness. And the sexlessness: Remnick adores Springsteen for his "flagrant exertion," which he finds deeply sensual, comparing him to James Brown, but Brown's shocking intensity, his gaudy stamina, his sea of sweat, was about, well, fucking, whereas Springsteen "wants his audience to leave the arena, as he commands them, 'with your hands hurting, your feet hurting, your back hurting, your voice sore, and your sexual organs stimulated!'", which is how you talk dirty at Whole Foods.
Hat tip to Michael C. Moynihan. Reason on the Boss here.