Back at the State University of Binghamton, where I was a creative writing student in the mid-1990s, I wrote a short story called “Shakespeare’s Night on the Town”. It wasn’t a very good story–overly moralistic (hey, I was raised Catholic!) and slightly naive. It was also a very long story. I told my professor, Liz Rosenberg, that I struggled to write short stories. “Maybe you’re a novelist,” she responded. I have never forgotten she said that. It resonated at the time, and it continues to resonate now.
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Why I Couldn’t Write Without the Music of Bruce Springsteen
Last week, I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert in Washington, DC. It was my third time at a Springsteen concert. My first time was in Syracuse, NY in 1992 (road trip from SUNY Binghamton). Then it was Los Angeles in 2009 (during a brief visit to my brother-in-law at the time).
One of my favorite Springsteen songs is a little-known tune called “New York City Serenade” that closes out his second album, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.
I’ve never known Springsteen to play the song live and I wasn’t quite sure, going into last week’s concert, why he should. It’s not, like, one of his greatest hits. I mean, you know “Rosalita” will make an appearance and “Spirit in the Night” will have everyone raising the roof.
But against all laws of probability, and with the kind of stunned good luck that might come from walking down the street and finding a dropped $100 bill at your feet, Springsteen opened last Thursday’s concert with “New York City Serenade”.
The first line? “Billy, he’s down by the railway tracks….”
I’m not saying the name of the protagonist from my novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot, was inspired by one of Springsteen’s characters. But I can’t say for sure that it WASN’T inspired by Springsteen either.
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