Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: Jefferson’s On Fire

This series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or tweeting @WritersBone.


Daniel: "I'm On Fire" is an anthem to youth, infidelity, and mischief. Every emotion every young man in love has experienced in the history of mankind can be summed up in this one line: “Sometimes it's like someone took a knife baby/Edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley/Through the middle of my soul.”

While the lyrics are inspired as always (no one has used the word “baby” in a song so expertly; it rattles your demons every time he sings it), the music drives the tune. It is constantly building in this song, but never boils over (a Springsteen hallmark). All the bubbling happens under the surface, and by surface, I mean his pants. Bruce has a hard on for this woman that’s stronger than a chrome engine, but he’s not scumbag enough (at least not in this song) to follow through with his desires.

This song could easily be about a writer struggling with the desire to create something truly original. It’s suicide to chase the muse full throttle at times, but keeping your emotions in check through a sweat-soaked restlessness can be just as soul-shattering.

Before I hand the mic over to Dave, I’d like to point out that if Springsteen told any woman (and most men for that matter) that he was on fire for them, relationships and families would be destroyed instantly. Yes Bruce, we’re on fire too.

Dave: I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m relatively new to the majority of the Springsteen catalogue, however, I’ve been playing “Born in the U.S.A.” since I was old enough to steal my older brother’s CDs. For me, “I’m On Fire” has always been a song that gripped my heart in a special way. I didn’t quite understand how or why until college. “I’m On Fire,” in accordance with its lecherous and soul-torturing tone, anthemed my blundering efforts to capture the heart of a beautiful and dangerously intriguing woman. Bruce couldn’t have captured the angst of young, unrequited love better; it still cuts, edgy and dull at my heart (we would date throughout college but never quite made the transition into real adult life). But the song, and Bruce’s own love life, captures love and life at its core: desire is just that, a wish. At some point, that aching is either cooled or explodes, changing yourself and reality for better or for worse. So when you wake up in the middle of the night, that freight train rumbling through the middle of your head, you gotta ask yourself, “Is she worth it?”


Dave: It just so happens that I moonlight as a college volleyball coach, and, after returning from a tournament in the badass state of New Hampshire, I couldn’t help but stop at the state line and indulge in some tax-free, price-slashed booze (damn does New Hampshire know how to sell hooch!). There, after spending my paycheck on a variety of bourbon, I came across a special stock of Jefferson’s “very” small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, specially distilled for the State of New Hampshire. Sold. A month later, a couple buddies and I opened it before heading to the bar. I poured two fingers worth, and then two more…and then two more before we headed out into the cold December night.

Jefferson’s, especially this special batch, is smooth and tasty with a healthy dose of vanilla. You can put back the Jefferson’s like it’s your job, or like you’ve survived another week of dream-torching, life-numbing corporate banality. How does it pair with this week’s Bruce pick? Well despite the fact that nothing is more American than Bruce Springsteen, bourbon, and Thomas Jefferson (@JeffsBourbon, we accept cash, credit, and money orders). Jefferson’s is a pleasant reminder that, at the end of hard days, loves lost, and choices regretted, friends and a finely crafted brown liquor can help you look past it all, if only for the night. But be careful, for goodness sake, this stuff packs a punch. Definitely do not have six fingers with no supper, followed by numerous beers; you’ll end up on all fours in front of porcelain on Saturday morning.

Daniel: Am I drinking Jefferson’s out of a Superman travel mug right now? Does it make me feel like a superhero? Am I being quietly judged by Dave, a known Batman homer?

All answers point to yes because there is no wrong way to consume alcohol. Unless…

I’m happy to say this bourbon is unlike its foppish namesake. It only takes one sip to discover it’s a sweet, enjoyable dark alcohol sure to put out or stoke your fire depending on your mood.


Dave: I was introduced to George Saunders by a college professor friend of mine. He suggested I check him out after a conversation about postmodernists and humorists (yeah, we’re pretty cool). I finally picked up a copy of Tenth of December, Saunders’ latest collection of short stories. The collection features 10 terribly well-constructed short stories ranging from attempted kidnapping to questions of social conformity and bigger questions about the value of life and death. It was a 2014 National Book Award Finalist, which I don’t find surprising. Saunders’ style comes across as a mix of humor and macabre that has you fighting to decide which emotion to express page after page to great effect. The book’s eponymous story rounds the collection’s emotional careening. Tenth of December is a story you think you’ve pegged from the first few pages, but manages to reel your heart in directions you didn’t know it could be wretched. There is plenty of hurt in this book, but, much like our Bruce song this week, Saunders’ leaves you stronger at the broken places.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.