Before I Read Another Bob Dylan Book: A Dialogue

18 June 2018:

Before I read another Bob Dylan book, I’d like to say a few words here. I’d like to hand over a conversation. A diálogo ficticio. Something about Dylan, me, and the imagined.

Here it is. Don’t take it for anything more than what it’s worth.

 

“Ain’t nobody like him, I’ll say first.”

“We could say that about so many though, right?”

“Right, but you see, there ain’t nobody like Bob Dylan because he became so many. So many somebodies and nobodies and everybodies. An amalgam, I’ll say. Which starts to make him sound like an anyone living in E.E. Cummings’ pretty how town.”

“Who’s town?”

“Noone’s and anyone’s.”

“Sure…”

“You see, Dylan is anyone. He’s everyone. He’s certainly someone.”

“Of course, I know that.”

“Good. That’s a start.”

“When does this nonsense start to make sense?”

“Well, let’s see. I’ll say this. I believe Dylan sponged up a whole lake of America and music history and came along at the right time to wring it out.”

“He did what?”

“Ever read Sean Wilentz’s Bob Dylan in America?”

“Who?”

“Never mind. The whole thing is a honest-to-goodness detective look at Bob Dylan’s roots. How the hell he came along, where the hell he came from. Ain’t just another Dylan bio, I’ll tell you that.”

“What does Winehart say? What’s his big idea?”

“You mean Wilentz?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Well, Wilentz puts Dylan up there as this massive accumulation of American music. He leads it all up to Dylan. He connects Dylan to the past in a way I’ve never seen put down. Poe, Melville, Whitman. Copeland. The Almanac Singers. Ginsberg, Kerouac. Tin Pan Alley. Outlaw ballads. Shakespeare. Gospel. The bible and Woody Guthrie. It’s all there. He sponged up everything, that’s the way I see it. And it all just came out. Dolly Parton and Dante both.”

“Now, wait. That’s all well and good and seems like a good read maybe, but I’m curious what he means to you.”

“Glad you asked. Dylan means another world. At least for me. At least for me he means something more than poetry or music or literature. He means with enough heart and attention, your world can explode.”

“And that’s a good thing?”

“Of course that’s a good thing. His art is the art of attention, of listening, of reimagining. That’s what he did. And that’s the heart of what he did for me.”

“I get it, I get it. Tell me, what’s your favorite Dylan album?”

“That ain’t easy to answer. In no order, I guess, chosen only by their selfish merit in my life, I’ll say Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.”

“Where should I start?”

“Anywhere.”

“Fine. And what’s next?”

“I picked up this new book in Portland last month. Written by some Harvard lit professor. Gonna read it next week. It’s called Why Bob Dylan Matters.”

“Well now, didn’t you just answer that?”

“All and all and deep by deep.”

“Another riddle?”

“Wish by spirit and if by yes.”

“Great. I guess tell me what the prof has to say when you get done.”

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