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1. The Dylanologists by David Kinney


So when you ask some of your questions, you're asking them to a person who's long dead. You're asking them to a person that doesn't exist. But people make that mistake about me all the time. 
—Bob Dylan, 2012

If you've ever spent any time around any sort of fan community, most of the people you meet in The Dylanologists will be familiar types. There are the collectors, there are the hermeneuts, there are the true believers and the pilgrims. Some reviewers and readers have derided a lot of the people Kinney writes about as "crazy", but one of the virtues of the book is that it humanizes its subjects and shows that plenty of people who are superfans are not A.J. Weberman. They seem a little passionate, sure, and if you're not especially interested in their passion they may seem a bit weird, but how different are they, really, from denizens of more culturally dominant fandoms — say, devoted sports fans? (Indeed, the term "fan" as we think of it now dates back to 19th century American sports, at least according to the OED.)

Or how different are they from academics? That was the question that kept buzzing through my brain as I read the book. It's no surprise to me that one of the great Milton scholars of our time, Christopher Ricks, would have become a Dylanologist; the fights among the Dylan fans are at least the equal of the fights among the Miltonists, who can be a rather contentious lot... (Speaking of Miltonists, Stanley Fish's invaluable "What Makes an Interpretation Acceptable", a chapter from Is There a Text in This Class?, came to mind again and again as I read.) In so many ways — its esotericism, its gate-keeping, its initiation rites — academia is a collection of high-falutin' fandoms.

Given that I have spent most of my life studying written texts, it's probably predictable that the chapter I found most exciting in The Dylanologists is the one about Scott Warmuth and other researchers who have traced the vast web of references, quotations, echoes, allusions, shadows, and traces of other writings through Dylan's own, particularly in Dylan's work over the last 15 years or so. (See Warmuth's fascinating essay for the New Haven Review about Dylan's Chronicles: Vol. 1.) One of the things that makes Dylan so extraordinary is that he's like a human filter for particular strains of Americana and of musical and literary history. He's like a human cut-up machine. Puritanical squawkers may scream, "Plagiarism!", but for me the effect of, for instance, Warmuth's revelations about Chronicles is that I was in even more awe of Dylan's achievement — the book reveals itself to be not just a memoir, but a more readable cousin to Finnegans Wake. Dylan's references, allusions, echoes, riffs, cut-ups, and copies expand his work and connect it to networks of meaning.


Don Hunstein; Bob Dylan, New York, 1963

(It's worth noting, tangentially, that these references, allusions, echoes, etc. are most effective at the level of language and music. While Dylan certainly has written songs and even entire albums that are explorations of what in fandom get called tropes, he's too great an artist to exert most of his energies at that level.)

(It's also worth noting that there are inevitably differences of power in how such references, allusions, echoes, etc. are perceived and the effect they have, especially in a culture of white supremacy. Dylan's not always great about this, but he's also not always bad, and to castigate him for "appropriation", as some people do, seems to me too reductive to be useful. At the same time, as I pointed out in a review of a book about Charley Patton and Jimmie Rodgers for Rain Taxi's most recent print issue, racism shaped what was possible for even the most talented artists, and the popularity of Patton and Rodgers, for instance, can't be said to be parallel: "The nature of their popularity was significantly different, and no small bit of that difference must be the result of race — both the race of the musicians and the racialized marketing of record companies that offered one set of music to black (and mostly Southern) audiences and another to white (and nation-wide) audiences." Both men were significant to the history of American music, both were hugely talented, and both drew from and played off of similar influences. But Jimmie Rodgers got rich and Charley Patton didn't, even though today it's Patton's name — partly due to Dylan's advocacy and homage — that is probably more likely to be recognized.)

Masks are easy to pick up and just as easy to discard. He's a man of masks, the man of thin wild mercury — the Dylan we know, the Dylan we can know, is a performance. The original image that was sold of Dylan — the earnest protest singer — has been resilient, and people still seem shocked when Dylan does something like a TV commercial. But Dylan was never pure, and it drives purists crazy. Dylan is all poses, all artifice, and he always was. He's not, though, a postmodern ironizer; his earnestness is in the earnestness of his artifice. (His art is real for as long as he performs it.) Many fans fall in love with the earnestness, but hate the artifice.

Fans tend to be both passionate and possessive. This is a bad recipe for Dylan fans, because he seems to take a certain joy in pushing against whatever expectations are set up for him. The history of Dylan fandom is a history of fans denouncing him at every juncture. The "real" Dylan is Dylan before he went electric, Dylan before he went country, Dylan before he went gospel, Dylan before the doldrums of the '80s, Dylan before he did a Victoria's Secret ad, Dylan before... Kinney does a good job of showing the ways that great passion can also lead to great disillusionment and even great hatred. The relationship between fans and celebrities can be pathological and destructive. One of the strengths of Kinney's book is that it shows various ways that pathology may manifest, from the benign to the fatal.

There's a kind of Harry Potter syndrome to a lot of fandom, well expressed by one of Dylan's die-hard followers, an expert at getting to the front of the admission line at concerts. Kinney asked him if he wanted to meet Dylan (not all fans do). Charlie said yes. "I think he would think I was funny. I really believe I could be the one guy who could talk to him without bullshit."

I really believe I could be the one guy — the one guy who understands, the one guy who knows the beloved's soul, the one guy who really gets it. The true fan. Another fan says late in the book:
"He and I have been through a lot together and he doesn't know it," she said. "He doesn't know I exist. Can you see how that would be frustrating? I don't have any grandiose idea that because he's affected me he's going to care. I just think it's not fair that it's a one-way relationship." She wasn't delusional. She didn't think he was going to ask her out on a date, or invite her to his home. But if he did she would have to drop everything and go. "I don't think he's Jesus, I don't think he's the messiah. He's just a human being. But he's filled with poetry."
Or another fan, one that Dylan seemed to occasionally pay some attention to:
"I think it's a wonder he shook my hand. I don't want to speculate," he said. But a few minutes later he stopped midsentence and looked me in the eye. "I take that back. I do have a theory, and I happen to think it's right. I don't think it, I know it. I think he's got a problem similar to my problem: being misunderstood, being misjudged. People take me the wrong way. I suspect it's because they don't listen to the words I say."
Fans may want to distance themselves from religious fanatics, but theirs is still a religious position — fan as worshiper, artist as God — and as various people have pointed out over the years, there's a secular religiosity that such fervent fandom satisfies. The fan is created in the god's image, the god in the fan's. I could be the one guy; He and I have been through a lot together; I think he's got a problem similar to mine. Throughout its history, the word fanatic possesses a religious connotation, and a fan, of course, is a type of fanatic. We don't worship gods that seem alien to us.

I don't say all this to scoff. Personal identification is a fundamental part of any artistic appreciation. It's hard for such identification not to slip toward certain types of fantasy, dreams of contact. I'm a huge fan of some things, and so is Bob Dylan: Kinney tells the story of Dylan's visit to John Lennon's childhood home, and the experience described is that of a fan. Even in academia, at least in my field of literature, one of the things that motivates some of our work (now and then, here and there) is the sense that we can understand a particular text or writer in a way that nobody else can.

And then there are relics. Kinney tells various tales of collectors: people who not only listen to the music, or collect rare recordings, but seek out physical objects somehow related to the singer. As I was most intellectually interested in the hermenauts close reading Dylan's texts, so I felt most sympathy for the people whose lives have been in many ways hindered by their quests for Dylan's stuff. I inherited a collector's personality from my father, though I hope I've also learned from his negative example, because for all the pleasure it sometimes brought him, his quest for the stuff (in his case, militaria, guns, etc.) in so many more ways limited his life. On the other hand, like so much else in fandom, collecting seems to have given the Dylan collectors a sense of purpose as well as a sense of community.

Relics are also religious, a kind of objective correlative for the zeal of worship. The Benjaminian aura becomes for some people even more important in the age of mechanical reproduction. Is anybody who really cares about a work of art impervious to this? I was recently at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, where a friend works, and getting to see and even hold so many unique items of literary history was overwhelming. "I now know what people mean by 'religious experience'," I said. I understand the impulse to buy the windows of Dylan's childhood home, even as I recognize that such an impulse is absurd. Kinney's book conveys both the attractions of the impulse and the absurdity.

This paragraph toward the end of the final chapter is especially revealing of the complexities that Kinney is able to find in the subject of Dylan and his most passionate fans:
What must it be like to be Dylan, the music writer Paul Williams once wondered, and carry around "the half-formed dreams of millions on your back"? Dylan always had been afraid of his followers, and Williams could understand why. "Their relationship with him is so intense, they expect so much, and more than once over the years they've turned really nasty when he chose to deliver something other than their notion of who 'Bob Dylan' should be." Williams wrote that in the aftermath of the first gospel concerts in 1979, but he just as easily could have said it after Another Side in 1964, Newport in 1966, Nashville Skyline in 1969, Live Aid in 1985, or London in 2009. So many controversies. So much disappointment. Dylan acted entirely unfazed: "Oh, I let you down? Big deal," he said once. "Find somebody else." More than one fan really did wish he had died in the motorcycle wreck in 1966. It would have been better that way. He'd have been frozen in his glory. Instead he got old. He kept putting out new records and doing shows. He kept confounding.
One of the effective choices Kinney makes is to set the book up as a kind of biography. It generally, though not slavishly, follows Dylan's career from the early days to later. The Dylanologists become a kind of cast of characters, moving in and out of the narrative. These two structural choices sometimes can be frustrating or feel a bit strained, but nevertheless give the book a unity and sense of narrative momentum that wouldn't otherwise be available. I expect readers' interests will ebb and flow depending on which types of Dylanologists they themselves find most interesting, and it's also likely lots of people will want to know more about particular people and less about others, making it difficult to say the book is entirely satisfying, but Kinney's interest is not so much in individual manifestations of Dylanology, but in how the idea of Bob Dylan gets kaleidoscoped through the many different ways of hearing him, seeing him, loving him, and hating him. I'm Not There did something similar in a more abstract way, and it might make a good companion piece with The Dylanologists, certainly more so than any conventional biography, which can really only tell us so much, and very little of what truly illuminates the work. Whether The Dylanologists can illuminate the work depends on what you desire for illumination. Certainly, it illuminates the quest for illumination.

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2. Bob Dylan in My Studio




I've been a big Bob Dylan fan since I was 10 years old. Many of his songs have served as a narration for my life and I have always appreciated his poetry. Believe it or not, he is also well known for his wild sense of humor.

Here are some songs that sum up my life in the studio each day:

All I Really Want to Do- every day when I step into the studio all I really want to do is make art  :0)(Another side of Bob Dylan)

Simple Twist of Fate- those happy accidents when I think a painting is going awry and something wonderful happens through no doing of my own. (Blood on the Tracks)

Everything is Broken-those heartbreaking kiln openings where things did go awry (Oh Mercy) 



One More Cup of Coffee- oh yes coffee, more coffee, please (Desire)

Don't Think Twice It's Alright-  those days when I realize that I'm just thinking way too hard I need to just let it flow (The Freewheelin Bob Dylan)

I Threw It all Away- sometimes there's just no going back and it does just have to go in the trash (Hard Rain)


Cry a While- what I do after I threw it all away (Love and Theft)

Blowing in the Wind- those days when I go in the studio and my mind is blank for new ideas. The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind (The Freewheelin Bob Dylan)

It's All Good-because it is. (Together Through Life)

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3. Girl from the North Country

 

001

 

I want to tell you a little bit about Annika, the pink-laced lass pictured above, whom I met on a recent visit to northern New York, or where locals refer to as “the North Country.”

During a period of downtime in the school library, Annika came to have her book signed. I had remembered her face from an earlier presentation. She had that kind of presence, the way she leaned in and listened. When I talk to a group, it’s natural to scan the gathered faces. The bored ones, the curious ones. I’m grateful when I find a student who is fully there, like a friend, smiling, enjoying it.

So now here she stood, still smiling, asking for me to sign her book. Of course, I was honored to do so. We got to talking. About movies and books and stuff. Neither of us in a particular hurry.

I later learned that Annika happened to be the daughter of the school librarian. “Ah,” I said, the pieces falling together. I was also informed that Annika was not merely an avid reader. She was a trapper, too. Like her daddy. “She earned $500 last winter,” her mother told me. “Skins ‘em herself, too.”

Really?

Oh, yes, really.

“She’s a real North Country girl,” her mother said. “Here, let me show you a photo . . .”

And so she did.

photo-10

That’s one of the reasons why I love to do school visits. They get me out of the house, out of my small world. I see new places, try to look around if I have some time, open my eyes a bit wider. Some days I get to meet seven-grade wonders like Annika, and I am always glad for it.

Meeting Annika reminded me of a favorite song by Bob Dylan, “Girl from the North County,” off the Freewheelin‘ LP.

The lyrics:

If you’re traveling the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
For she once was a true love of mine.

If you go when the snowflakes storm
When the rivers freeze and summer ends
Please see if she has a coat so warm
To keep her from the howlin’ winds.

Please see if her hair hangs long
If it rolls and flows all down her breast
Please see for me if her hair’s hanging long
For that’s the way I remember her best.

I’m a-wonderin’ if she remembers me at all
Many times I’ve often prayed
In the darkness of my night
In the brightness of my day.

So if you’re travelin’ the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was the true love of mine.

Dylan wrote this song in 1962, soon after spending time with folksinger Martin Carthy, who introduced Dylan to a great many traditional English ballads. You can hear in the syntax of the lyrics, the entire setup of the song (the instructions to the listener, “If you’re traveling,”), and even in the song’s closing lines, borrowed verbatim from an old ballad, “Scarborough Fair,” later popularized by Simon & Garfunkel. Importantly, while the traditional lyrics of “Scarborough” call on the lost love to perform a series of impossible tasks, in Dylan’s tune he wishes only for her warmth and remembrance.

I love the understatement of this lyric, the quiet poetry, the things not said. Remember me to one who lives there. He wants to know, simply, that she has a coat to keep warm from the snow and howlin’ winds. He wants, only, for her to remember him, as he remembers her after all these years. Through time and absence and cold winds. Just beautiful.

 

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4. Berlin Wall Music Monday: 99 Luftballoons



Long before I went to Berlin I was singing and dancing to "99 Luftballoons/99 Red Balloons" (both the German and English versions were on the record my husband had bought while in graduate school at Yale).

It wasn't until I began to research and write Going Over, the Berlin novel that launches in three weeks, that I understood the greater significance of the song. Its rhythms filter into Ada's dreams. Its possibilities filtered into mine.

Here is part of the story, as presented by Object Retrieval.

"99 Luftballons" is a Cold War-era protest song by the German singer Nena. Originally sung in German, it was later re-recorded in English as "99 Red Balloons".

"99 Luftballons" reached #1 in West Germany in 1983. In 1984, the original German version also peaked at #2 on the American Billboard Hot 100 chart and the English-language version topped the UK Singles Chart. The German version topped the Australian charts for five weeks and the New Zealand charts for one week.

While at a Rolling Stones concert in Berlin, Nena's guitarist Carlo Karges noticed that balloons were being released. As he watched them move toward the horizon, he noticed them shifting and changing shapes, where they looked nothing like a mass of balloons but some strange spacecraft. (The word in the German lyrics "UFO") He thought about what might happen if they floated over the Berlin Wall to the Soviet sector.

Both the English and German versions of the song tell a story of 99 balloons floating into the air, triggering an apocalyptic overreaction by military forces. The music was composed by Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen, the keyboardist of Nena's band, while Karges wrote the original German lyrics.

Interested in Berlin Wall music?

Check out Bruce Springsteen singing Bob Dylan in one of the most moving Springsteen performances ever.

Check out Elton John, slyly singing "Nikita."

Check out The Chipmunks singing "Let the Wall Come Down."

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5. The Last Waltz Considered

The Last Waltz was a revolutionary documentary. It was the first concert movie shot in 35 mm, the record of a celebration of the Band’s last concert on the site of their first show as The Band. It is the visual evidence that more than thirty years ago Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel had the good sense to go out on top. There are many examples of actors, politicians, athletes and rock stars who didn’t. The movie itself, I hour, 37 minutes, was directed by Martin Scorsese. No matter what you think of Hollywood, his credentials as a director are undisputed. His list of credits, accomplishments and awards means that Scorsese is a serious director, not one to waste energy. At the time, 1976, a time when the underground half of the 60's generation was realizing that the other half was following in the footsteps of their parents, embracing the values that their governments, their elders and betters, praised and promoted, Scorsese was in the middle of directing NEW YORK, NEW YORK, a huge, expensive Hollywood project. Unbeknownst to the New York, New York producer who would have had a heart attack if he’d known, Marty (as he is referred to by almost everyone in the movie) took a weekend off, filmed the concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, put together the rest of it in a week and filmed three more songs on a Hollywood sound stage a few months later. It was edited and released in 1978. The sets, lighting, photography, sound and all the myriad details that go into movie creation were taken care of by hook or by crook, often improvised by world renowned experts in their fields. The project took on a life of its own. It was not made for profit and grew into an important cultural event. Before Scorsese made The Last Waltz, there was WOODSTOCK (where he worked as an assistant director and editor and learned what not to do), GIMME SHELTER, SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and an Elvis film, but no other single concert had been as carefully choreographed, as meticulously set and photographed as this. There were seven cameras shooting at times, each run by a professional and, in many cases, a world famous cinematographer. Bill Graham’s lawyers forced Scorsese’s assistant to negotiate each camera movement because he controlled the stage and insisted that nothing impair the sight lines of the live audience. It is best to mention here that the DVD of The Last Waltz is available cheap at your local DVD purveyor. This one only cost ten Canadian dollars to buy, a great bargain for musicians, writers and anyone else interested in rock ‘n roll and the making of movies. The “Special Features” additions on the DVD contain a lot of comical and serious comments by the movie makers, Mac Rebenak, Ronnie Hawkins, Mavis Staples and the band members which can be listened to as the movie plays. As each band member, song and guest performer appears, someone talks about them. The story of The Band’s creation and growth through sixteen years of living on the road unfolds through a series of interviews with band members interspersed among the songs, mostly answers to questions posed by Scorsese himself, questions provided by a professional screenwriter. Many of the answers are funny, some ironic, some poignant, but one feeling permeates the whole movie, a sort of good natured humour, an amused observation of the world at large and a sincere appreciation of the music. The Band were aware that the odds of survival for such a long time in such a high risk lifestyle, were against them. Robbie Robertson says, at the end of the movie, “The road has taken some of the great ones” and “You can push your luck”. Three of the Band’s songs were filmed on an MGM sound stage where Scorsese could control everything and was free to use a crane and a camera as in normal movies. The Weight, in which Pop and Mavis Staples sing verses and all four harmonize on the choruses with members of the band, Evangeline, which is filmed in stunning colour with Emmy Lou Harris doing an achingly sweet call and response with Levon, and The Last Waltz theme song which is a waltz written by Robertson who is playing a double necked acoustic guitar as he performs it with the Band, were all filmed on sets designed by Boris Leven, a friend of Scorcese and the production designer on The Sound of Music and New York, New York. It was Leven who was responsible for renting the San Francisco Opera’s set for La Traviata and setting it up in the beat up, spruced up, old Winterland Ballroom for the concert. His original idea was to fill the place with chandeliers but they couldn’t afford more than three. It’s fitting that while the rest of their generation was trying to deal with the post Vietnam world, the plan for The Last Waltz was hatching and growing between Robbie Robertson and Martin Scorsese in a couple of months of creativity and hard work. At first, there was no budget, just an idea. It was cobbled together by the seat of its pants, almost an afterthought. The Last Waltz began, in a way, underground, and became the standard by which all concert movies are measured. When the concert was over, Scorsese and Robertson agreed that through all the craziness and frenetic activity, through the power of the music and the personalities, maybe, just maybe, they might have produced a gem. The movie begins with Rick Danko telling Martin Scorsese that the game is “Cutthroat” and breaking the balls on a pool table. Then, in a way which makes sense only when you’ve watched the whole thing and listened to the commentary, The Band returns to the stage for an unplanned encore after the concert’s over. They play Don’t Do It and Robbie Robertson’s lead guitar places the viewer in a car travelling through a beat up neighbourhood of San Francisco to the Winterland Ballroom where crowds are lined up and the huge vertical sign above the entrance has half of its lights burnt out. A young couple waltzes gracefully across the screen against the backdrop of The Last Waltz logo as the names of the guest performers appear: Dr John, Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Emmy Lou Harris, Muddy Waters, The Staples, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Paul Butterfield, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Wood. In the first interview Marty asks Robbie if they’re really “just friends” who showed up. Robbie tells him that no, the musical guests aren’t just friends, they’re probably the biggest influences in music to a whole generation. Michael McClure, the poet, appears on stage in a spotlight where he recites a short piece of Canterbury Tales in olde English, smiles and walks off. Lawrence Ferlinghetti appears at the end of the show, just before Dylan, with a quick, cool poem. They are the connection to the Beats, their presence welcomed. Kerouac’s spirit. As Robbie says, it isn’t about the audience so they don’t appear except for a few reverse shots which Scorsese loved. The concert itself is a mixture of Band originals beginning with Cripple Creek, interwoven with guests who play only one song each. Dr John displays that New Orleans piano style, slow drawl and dazzling smile on What a Night. Joni Mitchell’s strumming and phrasing make the room feel like everything’s in motion as she stands golden haired and innocent singing the naughty lyrics of Coyote. The floor shakes to the beat of everyone stomping to Muddy’s Mannish Boy. In the Special Features section there is a hilarious commentary on Van Morrison’s sequined outfit as he steals the show with his tour de force performance of Caravan and almost cracks a smile. He had lived in Woodstock when The Band lived there and was an old friend. Scorsese manages to get Joni’s profile in shadow when she sings an ethereal harmony to Neil Young’s Helpless. Garth Hudson’s head is suddenly illuminated as he stands to play a sax, trading solos with Robbie’s guitar in It Makes No Difference. Clapton trades licks with Robertson on Further On Up The Road after his guitar strap comes undone and Robbie picks up the solo without missing a beat. Neil Diamond, a companion from their Tin Pan Alley days, sings a song looking like he’s ready for Vegas. Paul Butterfield pulls off an amazing physical feat when he plays along with Muddy. Ronnie Hawkins, Muddy and Van the Man all exit the stage the same way, deliberately, with a flourish. In the commentaries Ronnie Hawkins tells the story of each band member as he was brought into The Hawks, Ronnie’s backup band which later became Dylan’s backup band, then The Band. He says he hired Robbie Robertson, the kid, to be a roadie as a favour to the boy’s mother. Robbie was hanging out with some guys who might end up in the penitentiary. Richard Manuel, quiet and gentle, always reminding me of The Furry Freak Brother comics in the interviews, roars the lyrics to The Shape I’m In with a strong singing voice made for the blues and slow dancing, rough and smooth at the same time. Levon Helm’s performance vocally and on the drums is hypnotizing . The physical energy required to play and sing that long and that hard is clear in the movie. Rick Danko’s voice is “mournful and strange with off the wall harmonies” as Mac Rebenak put it. It is sweet and harsh with power and feeling. Dylan (another funny commentary in the Special Features section) sings Forever Young and leads his former band into Baby, Let Me Follow You Down. The finale, with everyone onstage, is Dylan’s, I Shall Be Released. Robbie Robertson’s guitar playing is unique. He can play like a lot of people but no one ever plays like him, no one’s got his style , it’s really unique. Ringo and Ronnie Wood appear playing in an out take of a jam until, after 6 hours of filming, the cameras and people take a break. There may be better bands at some things but only these musicians could have pulled this off. A concert which requires a backup band for a variety of performers can be accomplished technically, but the life which The Band injected into the songs, the huge variety of styles they had to adapt to, could only have been done by them. They were a perfect backup band as well as the stars of the show. The sex is in the music. Understated and hinted at, never openly mentioned, the sex is in the music. In the interviews Scorsese asks about women on the road. The answers are, for the most part, as vague and euphemistic as the references to “fun” and other bad habits. Garth Hudson states with certainty that the greatest priests on 52nd street in New York were the musicians. Songwriters were the low men and women on the totem pole but the street musicians were the greatest healers. Thirty years after the movie was made, Martin Scorsese has done another concert film with The Rolling Stones called Shine a Light. Waiting to borrow my copy of The Last Waltz are a twenty year old drummer and a seventeen year old bass player. It means that Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson and everyone involved in the movie did produce a gem. And it means that all is not lost.

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6. Johnny Depp To Launch Book Imprint

Johnny Depp is teaming up with HarperCollins to launch a new imprint called that will publish a book on Bob Dylan and a previously unpublished novel by folk legend Woody Guthrie. The imprint will go by the name Infinitum Nihil, the same name as Depp’s production company.

“I pledge, on behalf of Infinitum Nihil, that we will do our best to deliver publications worthy of peoples’ time, of peoples’ concern, publications that might ordinarily never have breached the parapet,” said Depp in a statement. “For this dream realized, we would like to salute HarperCollins for their faith in us and look forward to a long and fruitful relationship together.”

The Associated Press broke the news and had more details about the imprint’s books. Check it out: “The Dylan book is scheduled for 2015. Dylan and [Douglas] Brinkley also will collaborate on the editing and publication of a previously announced novel by one of Dylan’s heroes, folk musician Woody Guthrie, who died in 1967. The novel, ‘House of Earth,’ was completed by Guthrie in 1947 but was only recently discovered. It’s scheduled for January.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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7. let's celebrate: when bob met woody by gary golio and marc burckhardt!


"All I can do is be me, whoever that is." ~ Bob Dylan

                


Hey, hey! Today is Bob Dylan's 70th birthday!!

We could celebrate by listening to 70 of our favorite Dylan songs, singing "Like a Rolling Stone" seventy times, or by letting out 70 WooHoo's! for this brand new picture book biography, When Bob Met Woody: The Story of the Young Bob Dylan (Little, Brown, 2011). (I vote for all of the above.)

Honey Babe, I was soooooooo excited when I first heard this book was coming out, but disappointed when I couldn't get my hands on a review copy -- until the ever thoughtful and generous Jules of 7-Imp offered to share hers (kiss kiss hug hug love on that beautiful woman). Now, I'm no longer a sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, because I've devoured Gary Golio's wonderful words and pored over Marc Burckhardt's crackerjack illustrations.

Though there are several middle grade Dylan biographies, and two recent picture books illuminating his song lyrics -- Man Gave Names to All the Animals illustrated by Jim Arnosky (Sterling, 2010), and Forever Young illustrated by Paul Rogers (Atheneum, 2008) -- Golio's is the first trade picture book biography featuring the iconic music legend.

       

Even a casual fan knows there are tons of books published about Dylan (latest count: approximately 1000 titles in English), including biographies and retrospectives, songbooks, photo albums, graphic interpretations of his lyrics, collections of articles and interviews, academic analyses of his ouevre by hardcore Dylanologists, even an encyclopedia containing every bit and bob about Bob. And of course, there's Dylan's own critically acclaimed memoir, Chronicles, Volume One (S&S, 2005). So Mr. Golio's task must have been quite daunting, sifting through the available resources and creating a narrative captivating enough to interest young readers who've probably never heard of our favorite Archbishop of Anarchy. And then there's that little matter of Dylan fabricating parts of his life, especially his early years.

In his Author's Note, Golio says:

As a boy, I was always looking for heroes, just as Bob was looking for Woody even before he'd ever heard of him. Babe Ruth, Leonardo da Vinci, Spider-Man, Amelia Earhart, and Harry Houdini -- they were just a few of my inner stars, and I came to them for guidance, hoping to learn more of life's secrets. But it was Bob's search for his guiding star that inspired me to write this book.

So we read about young Bobby Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minnesota, the brilliant blue-eyed boy who taught himself to play the guitar and piano, who stayed up late listening to Hank Williams, Muddy Waters and B.B. King on the radio, who worked in his father's store to earn money for records and an electric guitar. Music was both passion and refuge for the teenager who dreamed of traveling to faraway places and felt more and more like an outsider in his hometown.

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8. Tracey Guest Promoted to VP At Simon & Schuster

Tracey Guest, director of publicity at Simon & Schuster, has been promoted to vice president, director of publicity.

Guest has been with Simon & Schuster since 1998. In her time at the publisher, she has worked on a wide range of books by authors including: Hunter S. Thompson, Bob Woodward, Don Rickles, Mike Birbiglia, Bob Dylan, Paula Deen and Sylvia Nasar. Guest’s most recent publicity campaign was for Jaycee Dugard‘s bestseller, A Stolen Life. Guest began her career at Dutton/Plume in 1991.

In an email, Adam Rothberg, SVP, corporate communications at Simon & Schuster, wrote: “Through it all, Tracey has demonstrated excellent judgment, warmth, spirit, and an ability to make good things happen for our authors in all forms of media.”

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9. A core anxiety: Fear and trembling on the social networks

By Louis René Beres A visibly deep pleasure is embraced by cell phone talkers. For tens of millions of Americans, there is almost nothing that can compare to the ringing ecstasy of a message. It also seems that nothing can bring down a deeper sense of despair than the palpable suffering of cellular silence. Perhaps half of the American adult population is literally addicted to cell phones. For them, a cell, now also offering access to an expanding host of related social networks, offers much more than suitable business contact

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10. Blowin' in the Wind

Lyrics by Bob Dylan
Illustrated by Jon J. Muth
With CD of Dylan's original recording
Sterling, 2011
$17.95, ages 5 and up, 28 pages

In this sublime picture book adaptation, a paper airplane gliding across the sky becomes a breathtaking metaphor for the roles we all play in making a better world.

Award-winning Jon Muth meditates on Bob Dylan's remarkable 1963 protest song with sweeping illustrations steeped in symbolism, the most resonant being that of the toy plane.

Four children of differing skin color are taken by skiff across expanses of water and shown scenes that make them at turns reflective, sad, uncomfortable, and ultimately, ready to face up to a difficult truth:

That unjust things occur in the world and it is up to each of them to do something about them.

Passing overhead in almost every spread, a folded airplane symbolizes "the answer" in Dylan's refrain, "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind," a figurative verse about opening one's heart to all of humanity.

The idea, it seems, is that if one's heart and senses are receptive, the answer to what to do about life's injustices can be heard or felt, though it's up to each of us to want to act on it.

"Just as each of the children in my illustrations has his or her own paper airplane, each of us knows what needs to be done in our worlds," Muth writes in an end note.

Dylan himself in 1962 compared the "answer" in his song to paper, and one wonders if this played into Muth's choice of a paper airplane as his guiding metaphor.

"Just like a restless piece of paper it's got to come down some," Dylan wrote. "But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know …and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their

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11. A secret chord that David played

My mini-column for last week’s New York Times Magazine is on poetry and song. King David viewed them as natural companions, but these days they’re seen as distinct, unrelated arts.

Accepting Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for Letters recently, musician and poet Leonard Cohen implicitly took David’s view. He spoke of learning a progression of six flamenco chords from a mysterious young Spaniard who soon killed himself. “It was those six chords,” Cohen said, “it was that guitar pattern that has been the basis of all my songs and all my music… Everything that you have found favorable in my songs, in my poetry are inspired by this soil.”

And he expressed unease over the honor. “Poetry comes from a place that no one commands and no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.”

Related: Christopher Ricks, Jonathan Lethem, and Lucinda Williams on the case for Dylan as poet; PEN New England’s new prize for excellence in song lyrics, judged by Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, Paul Muldoon, and others; The Village Voice’s jokey list of contenders for the award; and, courtesy of my friend Michael Taeckens, Rimbaud and Jim Morrison. And, just for fun, Roger Miller and Dave Hickey on Hank Williams’ hooked-up verse.

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12. Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan

How many times must a man look up Before he can see the sky? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind The answer is blowin’ in the wind. 4.5 stars Bob Dylan’s iconic song, Blowin’ in the Wind, comprises the text for a beautiful children’s book by artist Jon J. Muth.  Muth has [...]

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13. Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison will be among the 13 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States, alongside other notables as Madeleine Albright, John Glenn and John Paul Stevens.

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14. Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison will be among the 13 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States, alongside other notables as Madeleine Albright, John Glenn and John Paul Stevens.

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15. The Last Waltz Considered

The Last Waltz was a revolutionary documentary. It was the first concert movie shot in 35 mm, the record of a celebration of the Band’s last concert on the site of their first show as The Band. It is the visual evidence that more than thirty years ago Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel had the good sense to go out on top. There are many examples of actors, politicians, athletes and rock stars who didn’t. The movie itself, I hour, 37 minutes, was directed by Martin Scorsese. No matter what you think of Hollywood, his credentials as a director are undisputed. His list of credits, accomplishments and awards means that Scorsese is a serious director, not one to waste energy. At the time, 1976, a time when the underground half of the 60's generation was realizing that the other half was following in the footsteps of their parents, embracing the values that their governments, their elders and betters, praised and promoted, Scorsese was in the middle of directing NEW YORK, NEW YORK, a huge, expensive Hollywood project. Unbeknownst to the New York, New York producer who would have had a heart attack if he’d known, Marty (as he is referred to by almost everyone in the movie) took a weekend off, filmed the concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, put together the rest of it in a week and filmed three more songs on a Hollywood sound stage a few months later. It was edited and released in 1978. The sets, lighting, photography, sound and all the myriad details that go into movie creation were taken care of by hook or by crook, often improvised by world renowned experts in their fields. The project took on a life of its own. It was not made for profit and grew into an important cultural event. Before Scorsese made The Last Waltz, there was WOODSTOCK (where he worked as an assistant director and editor and learned what not to do), GIMME SHELTER, SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and an Elvis film, but no other single concert had been as carefully choreographed, as meticulously set and photographed as this. There were seven cameras shooting at times, each run by a professional and, in many cases, a world famous cinematographer. Bill Graham’s lawyers forced Scorsese’s assistant to negotiate each camera movement because he controlled the stage and insisted that nothing impair the sight lines of the live audience. It is best to mention here that the DVD of The Last Waltz is available cheap at your local DVD purveyor. This one only cost ten Canadian dollars to buy, a great bargain for musicians, writers and anyone else interested in rock ‘n roll and the making of movies. The “Special Features” additions on the DVD contain a lot of comical and serious comments by the movie makers, Mac Rebenak, Ronnie Hawkins, Mavis Staples and the band members which can be listened to as the movie plays. As each band member, song and guest performer appears, someone talks about them. The story of The Band’s creation and growth through sixteen years of living on the road unfolds through a series of interviews with band members interspersed among the songs, mostly answers to questions posed by Scorsese himself, questions provided by a professional screenwriter. Many of the answers are funny, some ironic, some poignant, but one feeling permeates the whole movie, a sort of good natured humour, an amused observation of the world at large and a sincere appreciation of the music. The Band were aware that the odds of survival for such a long time in such a high risk lifestyle, were against them. Robbie Robertson says, at the end of the movie, “The road has taken some of the great ones” and “You can push your luck”. Three of the Band’s songs were filmed on an MGM sound stage where Scorsese could control everything and was free to use a crane and a camera as in normal movies. The Weight, in which Pop and Mavis Staples sing verses and all four harmonize on the choruses with members of the band, Evangeline, which is filmed in stunning colour with Emmy Lou Harris doing an achingly sweet call an

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16. Malcolm Gladwell on Jonah Lehrer Resignation: ‘I Am Heartbroken’

Malcolm Gladwell said “I am heartbroken” after hearing that Jonah Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker. Lehrer admitted that he had fabricated Bob Dylan quotes in his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works.

While the WWD reporter wasn’t sure if Gladwell had read the Tablet essay that exposed the fabrication, WWD had this quote from Gladwell: “I am heartbroken. Jonah is a friend. He is a decent and sweet and hugely talented guy, and I cannot imagine what he is going through right now,”

The book has already sold 200,000 copies, but the publisher has stopped the presses. Links to Lehrer’s book have been removed at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

continued…

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17. How To Get a Refund for Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has pulled Jonah Lehrer‘s Imagine: How Creativity Works after the author admitted to fabricating Bob Dylan quotes. Until December 31, the company will refund readers for the book.

If you want a refund from the hardcover book, you can take the book back to the bookstore where you bought it. Digital book  buyers must “submit requests to the retailer from which the eBook was originally purchased.”

In addition, you can mail the book directly to the publisher along with a proof of purchase. The publisher will send you “$30 within 30 days of receipt of book ($26 for book, plus $4 to cover mailing charges).” Here is the address:

HMH
Attn: Trade Sales/KR
222 Berkeley St.
Boston, MA.  02116

continued…

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18. Bob Dylan Gets 10/1 Odds to Win Nobel Prize

award.jpgAs literary types speculate about this year’s nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature before the official announcement, UK gamblers are still adjusting the odds and trying to predict a winner of the prestigious prize.

According to the betting site Ladbrokes, Japan’s Haruki Murakami still leads with 7/1 odds. However, Bob Dylan the next favorite with 10/1 odds. Dutch novelist Cees Nooteboom and Chinese author Mo Yan have also risen to the top with 12/1 odds. Cormac McCarthy and Philip Roth both have 16/1 odds and Alice Munro has 20/1 odds. Who will you place your bet on?

Nevertheless, literary blogger Michael Orthofer reminds us that Dylan is a bad bet: “it’s easy money for them — anyone who bets on Dylan is basically just handing the money over to them, zero risk to Ladbrokes.”

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19. Planet Waves Considered

“In this age of fibreglass I’m searching for a gem”

Planet Waves
B. Dylan

I don’t know who started it or how it started but it became a tradition and a ritual. We (Dave, Robin, Frank, Norm, Paul, Al and Mike to name some of the main participants) lived in a house on the corner of 4TH Ave and Balaclava in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver. They say it has become very exclusive and expensive there now. Then we had a single mother with an almost teenage daughter living next door to us. She was convinced that the RCMP (she called them “The Horsemen”) had killed her husband who had been a heroin dealer.
The tradition was turning a Saturday (if we were working or any afternoon if we weren’t) into a Tequila Sunrise or Bloody Caesar or Harvey Wallbanger day. We all supplied the ingredients if we could plus whatever beer and smoke were available, threw open the doors and windows and cranked up the stereo.
It is incumbent upon residents of Vancouver to take advantage of every sunny day there. Even the British climate doesn’t seem as depressing as the long, grey, cold, wet stretches of days and weeks which occur in Vancouver winters. Maybe it’s not so bad for natives but we weren’t natives and knew very few. Everyone was from somewhere else.
I remember Meddle and Band on the Run and Peaceful Easy Feeling blaring out across the postage stamp lawn as we played frisbee or catch with a football.
The one which was played the most on those days was Planet Waves.
It was the last time Dylan recorded in a studio with The Band. They had already toured with him as The Hawks and they toured again in support of Planet Waves. Not a bad backup band.
They honed their chops in Toronto backing up Rompin Ronnie Hawkins, The Hawk.
In The Last Waltz (1978) Robbie Robertson describes Ronnie Hawkin’s pitch upon hiring the talented teenagers as something like, “the money ain’t great, but you’ll get more pussy than Frank Sinatry”.
The Hawk was from the southern US and had plenty of experience in small bars there where the band onstage was separated from the audience by chicken wire to protect them from missiles like beer bottles thrown their way. He says he was a hard taskmaster. He didn’t want a backup band which learned songs on stage or made a lot of mistakes. He made them practice and practice hard.
The Hawk was recently interviewed by George Stroumboulopoulis on Canadian tv about his miraculous recovery from pancreatic cancer. A young healer (an underground healer, one not recognized by the established system) heard of his plight and helped him recover. Now he’s still laughing about the miracle and, as he tours, sharing his joy.
The best known song on Planet Waves is Forever Young. It’s obvious when you listen to the lyrics why Rod Stewart covered it. I don’t know whether he added some words of his own, but every parent, rock star or not, can understand the sentiment behind the lyrics of the song.
On side 2 of Planet Waves The Band whipped up one fast version with their electric jug band style, but the slow version on side 1 with Robbie Robertson’s tasty licks is one of the best rock songs ever written in my opinion.
I know some people can’t stand Dylan’s music and his voice even though it’s in key and timed properly, but anyone who admires the power of the English language has to, at least, respect him as a writer.
“Twilight on the frozen lake, North wind about to break...” are ten words which open Never say Goodbye and an instant image is conjured up in the listener’s mind.
Planet Waves also contains Going, Going, Gone which is another song created with great lyrics and the collaboration of musicians which doesn’t overpower the lyric content. It is a good example for all b

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20. Review: Man Gave Names to All the Animals by Bob Dylan and Jim Arnosky

By Phoebe Vreeland, The Children’s Book Review
Published: September 16, 2010

Man Gave Names to All the AnimalsMAN GAVE NAMES TO ALL THE ANIMALS

By Bob Dylan (Author), Jim Arnosky (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Sterling; Har/Com edition (September 7, 2010)

Source: Publisher

I had been trying to introduce Bob Dylan to my four-year-old daughter with entirely the wrong song.  Clearly, dancing around the house together to Dylan’s “Everything is Broken” was a crazy idea.  Recently, Bianca Schulze handed me the new children’s book Man Gave Names To All The Animalsa beautifully illustrated picture book by Jim Arnosky with Bob Dylan’s lyrics as text.  The book includes a CD of the original recording with its jumpy island beat and soft female background vocals.  With the right groove and stunning pictures, a new Dylan fan is born.

Few adult Dylan fans rave about this song from the 1979 release Slow Train Coming, but the song actually lends itself well to a sing-a-long with its simple chorus and predictable rhymes.  While repetitive, it won’t become an annoying ear bug like so many kids songs can. Those new to the song may appreciate the book’s text since Dylan’s signature gruff, nasal vocals are at times hard to understand.  It’s a playful song and children will delight while calling out the animals’ names.

However, the true reason why I am happy to have discovered this book is it brought Jim Arnosky to my awareness.  As a mother of a four-year old daughter I read a lot about pink princesses and cuddly creatures. It’s refreshing to have discovered someone who is passionately committed to connecting children with the natural world. Arnosky has written and/or illustrated over a hundred books about nature—books with titles like Slither and Crawl, Crocodile Safari, and Every Autumn Comes the Bear.

Using nature as the underlying theme, his books are as varied as they are plentiful and appropriately adapted to all ages.  He has reached the very youngest with his “Mouse” series of picture books and the adorable Rabbits and Raindrops and Otters Underwater.  Arnosky writes books for the older child that draw him out into the natural world while engaging in it—teaching outdoor skills, identification, sketching or merely observing—inviting them to “see as an artist would and observe as a naturalist would.” He has been praised for not romanticizing or humanizing animals. Influenced by the great nature writers John Burroughs and Ernest Thomas Seaton, Arnosky has said that their writings enticed him out into the natural world and he hopes his books will do the same for others.

Living and working in a rural Vermo

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21. A PiBoIdMo Warm-Up with…Bob Dylan?

Venerable LA Times rock critic Robert Hilburn recently penned Corn Flakes with John Lennon and Other Tales from a Rock n’ Roll Life, a revealing memoir-style series of vignettes featuring the great rock icons of the last 50 years.

In the book, Hilburn recounts his seven-piece Times series on the most influential and prolific songwriters of the rock era, which was published earlier this decade. He chose Bob Dylan as his first subject. Hilburn wanted to learn about a songwriter’s creative process: what inspires them, how they begin to lay down the music and lyrics, if success or failure of past work influenced future songs. The interview with Dylan earned Hilburn his third Pulitzer Prize nomination. And, Dylan’s words may give other writers—perhaps even picture book writers—inspiration for their own work:

“Some things just come to me in dreams,” Dylan told Hilburn. “But I can write a bunch of stuff down after you leave…about say, the way you are dressed. I look at people as ideas. I don’t look at them as people. I’m talking about general observation. Whoever I see, I look at them as an idea…what this person represents. That’s the way I see life. I see life as a utilitarian thing. Then you strip things away until you get to the core of what’s important.”

And picture books are indeed about what’s important; every picture book features an emotional truth, whether it be about family, friendship or fitting in. If you strip away what’s on the surface—the pirates or the penguins or the princesses—what remains is a story about the human experience.

Noted illustrator Jim Arnosky found inspiration in Dylan’s music. “From the first time I heard [Man Gave Names to All the Animals], the lyrics created pictures in my mind of a land of primeval beauty,” said Arnosky. Dylan gave his permission to create a picture book, and the work was released by Sterling in September.

So that’s your inspirational thought for the day. Well, two inspirational thoughts! People and songs.

What do other people’s actions say to you? How do those actions translate to story? What music boosts your creativity?

And don’t forget, there’s much more inspiration to come when PiBoIdMo begins in November. Consider this a warm up, or as Dylan might say, a sound check.


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22. Utopia and the Gun Culture

Me and a Gun

It's not Bob Dylan's best by any means, but for quite a while I've had a fondness for his little-known early folk song, "Let Me Die in My Footsteps", which I first heard in a recording by Happy Traum (with Dylan in background) from the Best of Broadside album, a marvelous collection that I gave to my mother as a Christmas present ten years ago.

When I first heard the song, this verse is one that quickly stuck in my mind, and is one that has a habit of floating through my mind's ear with some regularity:
If I had rubies and riches and crowns
I’d buy the whole world and change things around
I’d throw all the guns and the tanks in the sea
For they are mistakes of a past history
It was a constant earwig this weekend after I learned of the massacre in Arizona.


I think John Scalzi, among others, has sensible things to say about the politics of all this -- it's entirely likely that Jared Loughner was, in a vernacular sense at least, "crazy", but the national conversation has turned, for good reason, to the violence implied by much right-wing rhetoric -- and overtly stated by slightly less such rhetoric.

I have lived most of my life in a state where it was recently declared legal for people to carry guns in the State House. I lived for the first 18 years of my life with a gun shop attached to my house. When my father died in 2007, I inherited that gun shop, and had to get a Federal Firearms License to sell off the inventory. I know the gun culture in this country well, because though it's never held much appeal for me, it is a world I have never fully escaped. Mine has not been a world just of hunting guns, either; I shot my first machine gun when I was about 9 years old, maybe 8. (I've written about all this in some detail in my Rambo II essay.) I still have many well-armed friends, some of whom, in fact, I sold guns to.

Despite my left-wing tendencies in nearly every other realm, I'm not a big fan of most gun control proposals and legislation, but my reasons for not being a fan would probably cause people more comfortable with our gun culture to label me anti-gun -- most of the legislation seems to me ineffective. Dylan's utopia in "Let Me Die in My Footsteps" is one I fiercely yearn for -- a world of no weaponry.

But that's a utopia, and while utopian thinking has its place, I don't think it should be the base of legislation.

Ours is a nation of hundreds of millions of guns legally owned by civilians. It's just about impossible to know how many illegal guns are out there in addition to the hundreds of millions legally available. That's not a fact you can just legislate away, and broad attempts to do so only play into the fears of gun owners who think the government wants to take their guns -- and playing into those fears just causes more people to h

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23. Bob Dylan Reportedly Inks 6-Book Deal

According to a Crain’s New York report sourced by “several industry insiders,” music legend Bob Dylan will write six books for Simon & Schuster. Literary agent Andrew Wylie reportedly handled the deal with the publishing house that handled Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One.

Here’s more from the article: “The books include two follow-ups to Chronicles and a collection of riffs from Mr. Dylan’s radio show on Sirius XM … Mr. Wylie had been looking for an eight-figure offer, according to another editor, who didn’t know the deal’s final value.”

Chronicles: Volume One covered Dylan’s 1961 arrival in Greenwich Village, entering a bustling literary and musical scene. Follow this link to read an excerpt.

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24. The Peripatetic Song: One Good Tune Leads to Another

As frequent visitors here know, music holds an important place in my creative life. I’m a listener. I don’t play, can’t carry a tune, but I’m fairly sure I loved songs long before I loved books, and the words of songs touched me in a such a way that I wanted to pick up a pen to face (and fill) a blank page of my own.

Today I’m inspired by the first song on the new Iron & Wine disk, Kiss Each Other Clean.

Sam Beam, AKA, Iron & Wine.

The song, “Walking Far from Home,” instantly reminded me of the imagery in the apocalyptic Dylan tune, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” I enjoy it when writers trod familiar ground, mine traditional forms, like tourists visiting the same old plots, where the structural restrictions require the artist to dig deeper for his reward.

Both songwriters in this case, Sam Beam and Bob Dylan, were working within what I’ll call (for lack of a more accurate term), The Peripatetic Structure. Or more colloquially, The Where You Been? Song. Simply: the narrator goes out walking and encounters a world that is broken, wounded. I went out and saw this and this and this and that. But the telling of the journey becomes something far more than a laundry list of observations. In the hands of a craftsman, the observed, exterior reality functions as a reflection of an interior (spiritual) state, where the objective and subjective meet in hallucinogenic clarity, where nothing and everything is real.

Here’s Sam Beam:

WALKING FAR FROM HOME

I was walking far from home
Where the names were not burned along the wall
Saw a building high as heaven
But the door was so small, door was so small

I saw rain clouds, little babies
And a bridge that had tumbled to the ground
I saw sinners making music
And I dreamt of that sound, dreamt of that sound

I was walking far from home
But I carried your letters all the while
I saw lovers in a window
Whisper “want me like time, want me like time”

I saw sickness bloom in fruit trees
I saw blood and a bit of it was mine
I saw children in a river
But their lips were still dry, lips were still dry

I was walking far from home
And I found your face mingled in the crowd
Saw a boat full of believers
Sail off talking too loud, talking too loud

I saw sunlight on the water
Saw a bird fall like a hammer from the sky
An old woman on the speed train
She was closing her eyes, closing her eyes

I saw flowers on a hillside
And a millionaire pissing on the lawn
Saw a prisoner take a pistol
And say “join me in song, join me song”

Saw a car crash in the country
Where the prayers run like weeds along the road
I saw strangers stealing kisses
Leaving only their clothes, only their clothes

Saw a white dog chase its tail
And a pair of hearts carved into a stone
I saw kindness and an angel
Crying take me back home, take me back home

Saw a highway, saw an ocean
I saw widows in the temple to the Lord
Naked dancers in the city
How they spoke for us all, sp

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25. Zimmy reads, too

Bobby D.

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