Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I showed up...

Bob Dylan's autobiographical 2004 book, Chronicles, skips forward and back in time -- he tells it as he thinks of it, not in a straitjacketed list of first this, then that. ...

I like that -- I think, it's a good form, for some reason.  When I think about it, sometimes autobiographies or biographies -- life stories -- of people seem

a) needlessly boring, and
b) needlessly sad,

because of chronological reporting of what happened first, and what the person did next, and etc. etc. 

Once I was thinking, biographies of people in the past are always sad because the person dies in the end.  Well -- we all die!  Do we have to get sad every time we read that someone born 300 years ago -- the -- end of their life?  Hello -- (That s--t happens, right?!)

(Could write a one-sentence biography using a rude expression from the 80s -- "Life's a bitch and then you die" ... though bit tricky to market  that at twenty-eight dollars in hardcover....)

Bob Dylan's story goes like:  he discusses his life and inspirations and tells you some stuff and then it's the end of the book.  I like it.

In a story of anyone's life, I don't think a bunch of hollow, tedious "conclusions" need to be "drawn" by an author who is thinking more about himself than about his subject, but this happens a lot, it seems.

When Dylan talks about going down to New Orleans to record the album Oh Mercy,

he writes, "I showed up in New Orleans in early spring..."  I showed up.  "I showed up."  I liked that.  It made me think of that saying, "The world is run by the people who show up."

"I showed up."

--------------- [excerpt] -------------- I showed up in New Orleans in early spring, moved into a large rented house near Audubon Park, a comfortable place, all the rooms fair sized, furnished quite simply, wardrobe cupboards in just about every room.  We couldn't have come to a better place for me.  It was really perfect.  You could work slow here....

Right now, I strolled into the dusk.  The air was murky and intoxicating. -------------- [end excerpt]

Last week I had just included here on my blog a photo of soul singer Joe Tex (who figures in Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music) -- and then reading Dylan's book, I came across a paragraph where he talks about seeing Joe Tex on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

("Speaking of Joe Tex...")

Also there's a passage where Bob talks about seeing the James Joyce novel Ulysses on the bookshelf at the home of poet Archibald MacLeish -- and he considers asking MacLeish to explain to him what that book's about.  But he doesn't ask.  He thought Ulysses was too hard to understand -- and I tend to agree.

---------------------------- [excerpt, Chronicles] ---------------- I was born in the spring of 1941.  The Second World War was already raging in Europe, and America would soon be in it.  The world was being blown apart and chaos was already driving its fist into the face of all new visitors. 

If you were born around this time or were living and alive, you could feel the old world go and the new one beginning....Everybody born around my time was part of both. 

Hitler, Churchill, Mussolini, Stalin, Roosevelt -- towering figures that the world would never see the likes of again, men who relied on their own resolve, for better or worse, every one of them prepared to act alone, indifferent in approval -- indifferent to wealth or love, all presiding over the destiny of mankind and reducing the world to rubble. 

Coming from a long line of Alexanders and Julius Caesars, Genghis Khans, Charlemagnes and Napoleons, they carved up the world like a really dainty dinner....they would not be denied and were impossible to reckon with -- rude barbarians stampeding across the earth and hammering out their own ideas of geography.

My father was stricken with polio and it kept him out of the war, but my uncles had all gone and come back alive.  Uncle Paul, Uncle Maurice, Jack, Max, Louis, Vernon, and others....They returned to civilian life as if nothing ever happened, never said a word about what they did or what they saw. --------------------------------- [end excerpt]


(paintings by Bob Dylan) -


{Chronicles, Bob Dylan, 2004, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY  10020}


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