THE BOB DYLAN WATCH by Lawrence J. Epstein
This is my first post as a guest blogger. I’ll be writing regularly about recent and new material about Bob Dylan. With all the renewed interest in Dylan, I get the sense that we’re watching not so much the twilight of his staggering career, but the birth of his legacy.
I’ll be commenting on some of what emerges and I'll also take a look back at Dylan’s achievements. I don’t know if he’s a great poet, but I do know that he’s on the same intimate terms with the English language as a great poet. Indeed, what has always struck me was that he created a whole language. He provided his audience with aphoristic insights, memorable phrases that once embedded in their brains made appearances at crucial moments of their thinking.
He does that for me at least. Since I heard “The Times They Are A-Changin’” on the day before Thanksgiving in 1965, Dylan’s language has become part of my linguistic repertoire. Some people I know can’t work their way through an entire English sentence without swearing. Other friends can’t go through a day without quoting Dylan. He provides an emotional release, a sense of connecting to some cosmic truth for some, or perhaps connecting to their long-lost youth for others.
Recently, I’ve gotten a chance to talk with people about Dylan. Some of them are famous, like Pete Seeger, or Peter, Paul and Mary. Others are less famous, like B.J. Rolfzen, Dylan’s high school English teacher. They were all interesting, and I’ll be blogging about some of them as well.
I know Dylan’s work is uneven and his voice has gone. Some people like the feminist critic Germaine Greer even berate his writing skills. She did this in a recent article with the deliberately unsubtle headline “Why do people think Bob Dylan was a great lyricist? That creep couldn't even write doggerel.”
I saw the film I’m Not There at one of the two theaters in my county where it was showing. The theater was a tiny one. About ten people had left by the middle of the film. I thought the movie was mostly startlingly creative and that Cate Blanchett gave a brave and brilliant performance. I loved the careful re-creations of people and scenes from Dylan media appearances and previous film about him. Still, it was useful for me to see how audience members voted with their feet.
That helps keep Dylan in perspective as I continue learning about him.
-- Lawrence J. Epstein