Thursday, October 13, 2016

"But nothing really matters much, it’s doom alone that counts"

Earlier today it was announced that Bob Dylan will receive the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. Without a doubt, Dylan elevated lyrics above music, making many, most, perhaps all, of his songs poems, really. I chuckled when I read about Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, saying, in addition to him being "a great poet in the English speaking tradition," that Dylan is someone who has been re-inventing himself for 54 years, "constantly creating a new identity." The fact of the matter is, he has been doing no such thing. Apart from trading his last name, Zimmerman, for the given name of the great 20th century Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, he's remained himself. You see, Dylan always insists he's nothing more (or less) than "a song and dance man." All the re-invention has been, at least in my view, his way of poking fun at the vagaries of popular culture and media. I'll grant that Bob Dylan isn't who most of the media think he is, but it isn't because he changes identity. It's rather that he rejects the ideological nonsense many have been trying to project onto him since the 1960s. In my view, the only person who routinely has as much fun monkeying with the media is French author Michel Houellebecq.

Nobel Prize awardee, Robert Zimmerman


Over the years I've posted plenty on Dylan. Without a doubt the one I remember the most from all the way back in 2009 is: "YouTube orthodoxy and Saturday miscellania." The occasion was an interview he'd done with Douglas Brinkley for Rolling Stone. Here's an excerpt:
Douglas Brinkley, who interviewed Dylan for Rolling Stone, writes: "I decide to push him on the importance of Christian Scripture in his life. 'Well, sure' he says, 'that and those other first books I read were really biblical stuff. Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben Hur. Those were the books I remembered reading and finding religion in. Later on, I started reading over and over again Plutarch and his Roman Lives. And the writers Cicero, Tacitus and Marcus Aurelius...I like the morality thing'." Here is where Dylan says something so wise and concise you might miss it: "People talk about [morality] all the time. Some say you can't legislate morality. Well, maybe not. But morality has gotten kind of a bad rap. In Roman thought, morality is broken down into basically four things. Wisdom, Justice, Moderation and Courage. All of these are the elements that would make up the depth of a person's morality. And then dictate the types of behavior patterns you'd use to respond in any given situation. I don't look at morality as a religious thing"
Dylan's view on morality is really quite Catholic, rooted as it is in natural law.

I'm going then with two for our early Friday traditio. First, Bill Murray and Bob Dylan doing a duet of sorts on "Shelter From the Storm" in Murray's recent movie St. Vincent, a very good film, one I highly recommend:



Followed by Bob himself with a fairly rousing rendition of "Shelter From the Storm":



It's easy for me imagine the "she" in this song as our Lady. It's the month of her Most Holy Rosary, pray it daily.

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