Looking Outside(r)

Somewhere out there, in the equal parts beauty and terror of the multifarious realm of postcolonial studies, there should be an explanation for my fascination for Bruce Springsteen. I’m thinking (hoping?) for an argument that doesn’t merely dismiss my liking as colonial mentality, especially if any attempt at critical self-interrogation is short-circuited. This is something that seems to me an easy consequence of perspectives that capitalize and essentialize nation and culture into, well, Nation and Culture.

Springsteen strikes me, you see, as performing America(na), something that is either symptomatic of or the root cause of how he performs authenticity. When I think of Springsteen, and this may be a holdover from Greil Marcus, I’m reminded of epic drama:

This guy can’t be real, I tell myself, and it’s that which fascinates me. He’s larger-than-life, mythic even, but I kind of see him reaching out for that state and that both undercuts and emphasizes his, er, grandeur.

(I haven’t read this book, but I’m willing to explore the idea that Springsteen sings the American nation-state.)

I feel I’m writing myself into a corner here though, and all this was really just meant to be mere prologue to how I also like it when a non-Filipino talks about Philippine culture without adulation, with affection that doesn’t shrink from criticism. Your Honor? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury?

Exhibit A: David Byrne and the experiences that helped him with Here Lies Love.

Exhibit B: Author Robin Hemley, whose Dispatches from Manila show him more fully assimilated than Byrne, but–and this is crucial–never completely so.

Wonderful pieces, all of these, and reading them is being on the inside looking from the outside at the inside. Utterly vertiginous, and delightful precisely because of that.