The Front Man [by Dublin Institute of Technology’s Harry Browne] is about a boy who never grew up or faced facts. Through very careful accretion of detail it left me feeling that Bono resembled no entertainment or arts figure nearly as much as that other sad, sheltered boy, George W. Bush.
In fact, what surprised me most about my reaction to the book was how my response changed as I read. At first, the prose seemed too reserved, too cautious, incapable of capturing the outrageousness of Bono, one part talent to nine parts hubris.
But as the pages turned, what engrossed me was another portrait: Bono as that little boy in man’s boots, surrounded by forces he fathoms no more than a five-year-old fathoms the perils of the sea. In the end, Harry Browne’s Bono is not so much a huckster as a sucker; not a con man so much as a victim of the world’s greatest con artists; not an egomaniac but someone so insecure he has found ways to be shielded from almost all harsh realities (well, at least his own). If this were a movie, you might be able to measure the price paid just by the way he looks at himself in the mirror.
Most less than adulatory writing about Bono, including my own, is a blend of anger, contempt, condescension and frustration.
The Front Man recognizes all these instincts, but keeps them under tight command. For instance, Browne allows himself to be angrier (in tone) at Bono’s wife, Ali, whose business machinations are real but comparatively trivial, than at Bono, himself. There’s kind of a shadow behind such moments, as if we’re meant to glean that the
book’s protagonist can’t be judged like other men, not because he is extraordinarily gifted or brave or empathetic, but because he’s so lost, frightened and pathetic.
Bono may be the personification of all that’s evil about contemporary celebrity culture and all that’s worse than bankrupt about liberal capitalism (and liberal capitalists) but there’s also a real person in there, and he’s spent most of a lifetime making himself what history must surely judge—perhaps not with as much restraint as the author—as a fool.
Rock writer Dave Marsh, who first met Bono in 1984 and is a longtime critic of U2’s music and their singer’s politics, reviewing Harry Bowne’s book The Front Man: Bono (In The Name Of Power).
Previously: Anything Good On Amazon
Thanks Michael Nugent