In the weeks leading up to the release date of Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels, I'll be featuring some of the pieces and authors here on the blog! Our ninth feature is James McAdams and his CNF piece "Streets of Elkton."
James McAdams is a writer of fiction, poetry, academic essays, and CNF with a short story collection, Ambushing the Void, accepted for 2020 publication by Frayed Edge Press. Work in Amazon/Day One, Ghost Parachute, Bending Genres, Ellipsis Zine, Superstition Review, and BOATT Press, among others. He is an English Instructor at the University of South Florida and the Flash Fiction Editor at Barren Magazine. He is currrently writing a novel titled The Florida Shuffle: My Summer in Rat Park II, about the FL rehab industry. His work can be viewed at jamesmcadams.org and he can be followed @jamestmcadams.
Which Springsteen song(s) inspired your piece?
Even though the piece seems to revolve around "Candy's Room," the spark was actually "Dancing in the Dark." Like the narrator, I was in my early 20s working at an Assisted Living facility in a Springsteenian town called Elkton, Maryland. Aside from two other times that ended in hospitalization, it was the worst time of my life. When I wasn't working, I would lay in bed facedown listening to "Dancing in the Dark" on repeat: "I get up in the morning and I ain't got nothing to say/I go to bed in the evening feeling the same way." I was also a struggling writer then (as I am now) and the line about "just trying to write this book" resonated.
What is it about these songs in particular and/or Bruce’s music in general that inspires you?
The sense of community, place, honesty, the romance of failure/defeat/destroyed ambitions. He eulogizes America like Guthrie and, to be more contemporary, Denis Johnson.
What five Springsteen songs do you think everyone should listen to?
I know I should be all cool and list obscure songs or songs off Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad but I'd be fine just listing all of Darkness on the Edge of Town. Without hyperbole, that's my favorite album ever-I realized this after the release of The Promise documentary about the making of it in 2011 or whatever. Aside from that album: "Jungleland" (he out-Dylans Dylan here), "Because the Night (Houston, 78)," "I'm on Fire" (even tho it's sooooo creepy and not PC this day and age!!!! but that staccato guitar thing is unbelievable), "The River"--line that sums up the Springsteen ethos: "Now I act like I don't remember/and Mary acts like she don't care"--
What’s your favorite line/section from this piece?
I already quoted from "Dancing" so here (tied with "The River" above) is the best triad he ever wrote, from "The Promised Land":
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart Blow away the dreams that break your heart Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted
Anything else you’d like to say, either about Bruce or about your piece?
Every time I think of Bruce I think of my BFF Em, a true Jersey girl who somehow ended up in Nebraska too. When I met her, she drove an old Camry with a cassette player (I shit you not). The only tapes she had were Bruce, and I think maybe a Willie Nelson one. Oh, and her cat is named Mary.