Wednesday night, Broad Street Market hosted a book signing celebrating the publication of Professor of History Bradley Birzer’s latest book, “Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions,” a biography analyzing the life and contributions of drummer Neil Peart, the backbone of the progressive rock band Rush.
Faculty, students, and friends flooded Broad Street Market to give their praises, and discuss Bizer’s work.
For Birzer, Rush represents more than a rock group, and Peart in particular occupies a special place in his life.
“I was in detention in 7th grade,” Birzer remembers. “The two other guys I was in detention with knew I liked progressive rock, so they asked me if I had heard of Rush, and I said no. I went out later that day and bought ‘Moving Pictures’, and it just clicked. Though I’ve never met him, he is kind of like a big brother figure to me.”
Bizer’s book attempts to offer a more holistic portrait of Neil Peart. It assesses his overall intellectual and cultural impact.
“The book is basically an explanation of Peart as a writer,” Birzer said. “He has written a number of travel books and some fiction in addition to his lyrics. I tried to tie all of that together to suggest that there is a coherent man of letters behind the drummer. He does so much more.”
While Peart is widely acknowledged as one of the most talented and innovative percussionists of all time, few are aware of his literary successes. Peart, in addition to being the primary lyricist for Rush, has published five books ranging in topics from science fiction to travel memoirs.
Birzer was offered the opportunity to write about his idol while he was on sabbatical last year, living in Colorado with his family.
Best-selling science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson, friend and publicist of Peart, lived nearby.
“When I went to Colorado, one of my goals was to meet him, and we just hit it off,” Bizer said.
After expressing interest in writing a biography of Peart, Anderson later approached Birzer to write the piece. Birzer enthusiastically accepted.
“I guess I’ve been thinking about writing this book since 1981, but I started it last Christmas and finished it in June,” Birzer said.
Birzer has already written several biographies, including works on Tolkien, Charles Carroll, and others scholarly figures. But, as a life-time Rush fan, his new book was a thrill to write.
“It’s not like the typical, scholarly biography he writes — it’s a lot more personal,” Birzer’s wife, Dedra, said.
Reactions at the book signing were all positive.
“It’s great that Brad can write about what he loves,” said Professor of Theatre James Brandon. “When you’re an academic, you get into the field because you really love stuff, and you don’t always get to work with it. That he can be a great academic and historian, but also delve into something that is an interest and real passion of his — it’s great.”
Lecturer of History Miles Smith IV agreed: “I’m excited about it. I’m excited to have him back. Dr. Birzer is a scholar who can really transcend his discipline of history using all sorts of other mythologies that lend themselves themselves to music and art.”
Overall, both students and faculty are glad to have Birzer back on campus, and his new book, “Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions,” was certainly a labor of love for Birzer. Peart would be proud.