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Fictional (or Non-Fictional) Friday: U2 by U2

October 16, 2009

I admit that I can be a very stubborn person. When someone tells me to do something or that I should be something, I often question that person or system and do the exact opposite. More often, I’ll do just enough to skate by and add my own twist. Reading is one of those things.

During the last eleven years of my life, I read what I was told to read. For homework. For a research project. For a lesson plan. I never got to read for me. Truthfully, I never prioritized pleasure reading in my schedule because I was so burned out from reading what I had to, especially during my two years of undergraduate. Two of the most important people in my life–Katie, who is a writer, and my mom, who is a librarian–are voracious readers, as are more of the people I’m beginning to admire.

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, on our European vacation, I read. A lot. Four books that I chose and that I read at my own pace. And since our vacation, I’ve continued to read–I’ve finished two books and am working on another one. So to accompany this rediscovered pleasure, I want to install Fictional (or Non-Fictional) Friday on my blog, where I talk about the book that I’m currently working on. I must admit, I’m a meticulously slow reader, so I may talk about books for two or three weeks at a time.

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Last year, for my 24th birthday, Katie bought me a coffee table book called U2 by U2. It’s an extended interview (over 300 pages in my edition, nearly 500 pages in a paperback version that’s being released in December) with the four members of U2 and their manager, Paul McGuiness. I briefly thumbed through it when I first got it, but now, after the excitement of seeing U2 live, I’m getting to know the band, their thoughts on music, and their story. Here’s the opening clip from Bono:

Sometimes it comes across as if I got into U2 to save the world. I got into U2 to save myself. I meet people out on the street who approach me like I’m Mahatma Gandhi. And when someone says, “Hail, man of peace,” I can hear Larry (the drummer) mutter under his breath: “You’re so lucky he didn’t nut you.” The band are very bemused by my attraction to non-violence, because they know you couldn’t get further from the songs than the singer. They understand the reason I have been so attracted to these characters, the subjects of the songs — because in my life and temperament I am so far from them.

To sing those songs, to hit those high notes, takes an incredible concentration and commitment. You have to step inside and live the song. So you’re right in the middle of Derry performing “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, or you are in Memphis at a civil-rights rally with Dr. King, singing “Pride in the Name of Love”. I’m right up there. Your mate is ruining his life with a bag of smack. It’s “Bad”. You’re in those emotions. And I think the band have been very good about realizing that I get to that spot. At times it must have been very idfficult for them, because the singer would be right out there.

Your nature is a hard thing to change; it takes time. One of the extraordinary transferences that happen in your spiritual life is no that your character flaws go away but they start to work for you. A negative becomes a positive: you’ve a big mouth, you end up a singer. You’re insecure, you end up a performer who needs applause. I have heard of people having life changing, miraculous turn-arounds, people set free from addiction after a single prayer, relationships saved where both parties “let go and let God”. But it was not like that for me. For all that “I was lost, I am found,” it is probably more accurate to say, “I was really lost, I’m a little less so at the moment.” And then a little less and a little less again. That to me is the spiritual life. The slow reworking and rebooting of a computer at regular intervals, reading the small print of the service manual. It has slowly rebuilt me in a better image. It has taken years, though, and it is not over yet.

As I mentioned in the last post, U2 is celebrating its 30th year of recording. U2 by U2 is chaptered into different eras of their career, starting with meeting at Mount Temple School outside of Dublin and concluding after the release of “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”. I’ve gotten to about 1981. U2 had just released “Boy”, their first album, and concluded their first American tour.

I love the last idea in Bono’s quote–I was really lost, I’m a little less so at the moment. That idea transcends into the narrative of the band, as well as the narratives of the band members; readers learn about four high schoolers who started a musical group without knowing that much about the technical aspects of music, but understanding that music brought fulfillment and community. Their community was messy–at several points they mentioned that their rehearsals mainly consisted of fighting, and there are several rather hilarious depictions of teenage angst in the introductory chapters. Adam was an unorthodox bass player at first, Larry had difficulty keeping beat, and Bono often produced unpredictable shenanigans while performing in the early years, but they refused to disband because of their friendship; in fact, they became better musicians learning to adapt to these early ineptitudes. Their community was also incredibly poignant, as these young men used their camaraderie to combat trauma and loss; three of the four had lost parents (physically or emotionally) by the age of 21.

I’m listening to the U2 CD’s as they talk about them in the book. I just finished reading about “Boy” and listening to some of the musical nuances they enjoyed producing and examining some of the lyrics of songs, such as “I Will Follow”. I’m really excited about learning how these four become musically, personally, and spiritually molded and shaped into the most influential rock group of our generation.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Judy permalink
    October 17, 2009 8:45 am

    Thanks for sharing this book with us.
    Mom

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