Ben’s Brilliant Best Albums of the 1990s. No. 71. Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad

Are you familiar with Hemingway’s Iceberg technique? Briefly, for those who aren’t – You know iceberg’s, yeah, lots more under the water than is visible on the surface? Well, Hemingway thought stories should be like that. The deeper meaning of the story should be hidden, not explained, like, shining through the surface language and that. Does that make sense? Yeah? Cool. You can always Wikipedia it doesn’t to get a better sense of things.

The theory is a good one but, as with a lot of Hemingway’s supposedly groundbreaking ideas, something that people were already doing in a more interesting way than he ever would. Too often you can see his working out. He winks to his audience too obviously. And, before I stop ranting about him, can I just point out that, like an iceberg, Hemingway’s work is cold and, upon close inspection, wet. I’m just saying, dudes.

And so, I put it to you, you Hemingway fanboys you, Highway 29 by Bruce Springsteen is a far better example of the iceberg technique than Creative Writing 101’s Hills Like White Elephants. The surface is more interesting, the hidden depths more nuanced, and the musical arrangement more pleasing to the ear.

The Ghost of Tom Joad is a quiet album, but one that can break your heart if you let it. Lines like, ‘You can get used to anything/sooner or later it just becomes your life’ have a simple truth to them that cut deep. It is better than Hemingway. Stick that in your stupid pipe and smoke it.