Book Review: ‘Surrender,’ by Bono

Book Review: ‘Surrender,’ by Bono

Of course, Bono has three other life partners, with whom he has truly pulled off the impossible. The lineup of U2 has remained intact for more than 45 years, and every single day that Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. wake up and are still the members of this band, they are in uncharted waters. “Surrender” makes no real attempt to explicate fully how they execute this magic trick — Bono writes respectfully if a bit distantly about his bandmates, and maybe that discretion is critical to maintaining the sense that U2 endures as an experiment rather than an oldies act.

“If we kept going,” he says, “we could do that thing that no one else has done. But only if we kept moving, kept together and kept a kind of humility. Only if we kept breaking up the band. And putting it together again.”

It’s telling, though, that the third and final section of “Surrender” is much more devoted to Bono’s activism than to his music. His bold efforts on behalf of causes like international debt relief and AIDS prevention take us inside rooms and meetings with Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Bill Gates and numerous committees and commissions. U2 feels like less of a priority (“Meanwhile, the band — the other one, remember them? — had put out two albums. And done two tours,” he tosses off at one point), which is how many fans have responded to their recordings for the last 15 years or so.

But like U2, “Surrender” soars whenever the spotlight comes on. Bono is never more powerful, on the page or the stage, than when he strives for the transcendence that only music can offer. “I had to create that fusion, to make a chemistry set of the crowd,” he says, “finding some moment that none of us had occupied before, or would ever again.”

Alan Light is the author of “The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of ‘Hallelujah,’” which inspired the recent documentary “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song.”

SURRENDER: 40 Songs, One Story | By Bono | Illustrated | 564 pp. | Alfred A. Knopf | $34

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