1. On his “Love And Theft” album from 2001 Bob Dylan, through lyrical and musical appropriation, crafted the album’s opening song “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” to operate as a secret answer record, or meta-response, to the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band.” Dylan is responding to a series of allusions used by Robert Hunter. Bob Dylan employs this strategy throughout his “Love and Theft” album and continued on this path for the next decade, as seen through an examination of his 2006 album Modern Times, and through his use of appropriation in a 2011 interview. In 2009 Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter collaborated on Dylan’s album Together Through Life. On this record Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter use this allusive technique on a song that they wrote together.

    In his Greatest Stories Ever Told blog on dead.net Grateful Dead annotator David Dodd writes:

    One of my proudest moments as someone who devoted a LOT of time to annotating the lyrics was when I received an email from Hunter telling me I was “right on the money” with the direction of my notes on “Uncle John’s Band.” It was when I was exploring the possible origins of the song in the work and personnel of the New Lost City Ramblers, that wonderful old-timey band whose members included Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley. “Uncle John” was a nickname for Cohen, and Hunter and Garcia were both fans who saw the band play a number of times.

    Some of these allusions came full circle, as seen in the publicity material for John Cohen’s 1998 release Stories The Crow Told Me:

    Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead were among those listening to old-time music in the 1960s. “The Story That the Crow Told Me” and “Buckdancer’s Choice,” heard on this CD, are mentioned in the lyrics to their anthem “Uncle John’s Band.” “If I wasn't specifically thinking of you personally when I wrote ‘Uncle John’s Band’,” Robert Hunter told John, “I might as well have been; you fill the bill.”

    In Robert Hunter’s email to David Dodd he states, “I thought I’d give you a piece to the puzzle which is not so obvious; a less direct allusion.” Hunter then suggests that the line, “like the morning sun you come/and like the wind you go” is an allusion to a verse from another song in the cannon of the New Lost City Ramblers, “Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies”:

    Come all ye fair and tenders ladies
    Be careful how you court young men
    They're like the stars on a summer’s morning
    First appear and then they’re gone

    Scholars have explored the influence of the New Lost City Ramblers on the Grateful Dead in the literature, and an even closer examination shows just how deep this vein runs. In his annotations to “Uncle John’s Band” in The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics David Dodd points out that the fiddle tune “Buckdancer’s Choice” was an early entry in Garcia’s repertoire, and points out that the song is part of the June 11, 1962 Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers set list. The majority of the songs in this set list are tied to recordings and arrangements associated with the New Lost City Ramblers. For instance, “Run Mountain,” “Billy Grimes the Rover” and “Crow Black Chicken” appear on The New Lost City Ramblers, Vol. 4; “Hold the Woodpile Down,” “The Johnson Boys” and “The Sweet Sunny South” are tracks on The New Lost City Ramblers, Vol. 3 and “Hop High Ladies” is on their album Old Timey Songs for Children. Other songs in this set, including “Buckdancer’s Choice” appeared on forthcoming albums by the New Lost City Ramblers, and were part of the Ramblers’ live repertoire in that era.

    One could argue that this suggestion could boil down to simply a matter of a common pool of songs that were part of the folk music lexicon of that era. Stage banter from Jerry Garcia during this performance makes it plain that this love of, and theft from, the New Lost City Ramblers is anything but coincidence. Between the songs “Crow Black Chicken” and “The Johnson Boys” Garcia says, “We’re back again to do a little of the old-time hill music that we stole from the Ramblers and they stole from old records and the musicians that were on the old records stole them from their fathers and things like that. So it’s all part of the oral tradition and that’s your lesson in folklore for tonight.”

    Robert Hunter has noted the role that the New Lost City Ramblers played as a conduit, saying, “Dead seriousness came when Jerry and Dave Nelson discovered the New Lost City Ramblers and the old-timey stuff, which directed them back to the roots that the Ramblers knew so well.”

    Carol Brightman includes that quote in an argument she makes against the main thesis of Greil Marcus’ book Invisible Republic. Brightman writes that Garcia:

    …was influenced, as Bob Dylan was, by musicologist Harry Smith’s compilation of “hillbilly” and “race” recordings from the 1920s and ‘30s in the Anthology of American Folk Music...There are traces of the Anthology’s lyrics — with their hangings, supernatural visions, swindles, and endless wandering — in the songs that he and Bob Hunter later composed for Workingman’s Dead (1970) and American Beauty (1970)...The very idea of an “invisible” world, hidden inside the official one, came naturally to Jerry. But Marcus’s argument that it was the idiosyncratic truth of the studio recordings — the “founding document,” he calls Smith’s collection — that inspired the folk revival ignores the actual listening habits of musicians.

    In his book Marcus draws a direct line from the Anthology of American Folk Music to Dylan’s work. Dylan wrote a blurb that appears on the book’s cover, but takes issue with some of its contents. In a 2001 interview Dylan had this exchange with Mikal Gilmore:

    Gilmore: In Invisible Republic — Greil Marcus’ book about you… Marcus wrote about the importance of Harry Smith’s legendary Anthology of American Folk Music and its influence on all of your work, from your earliest to most-recent recordings.

    Dylan: Well, he makes way too much of that.

    Gilmore: Why do you say that?

    Dylan: Because those records were around–that Harry Smith anthology–but that’s not what everybody was listening to. Sure, there were all those songs. You could hear them at people’s houses. I know in my case, I think Dave Van Ronk had that record. But in those days we really didn’t have places to live, or places to have a lot of records. We were sort of living from this place to that–kind of a transient existence. I know I was living that way. You heard records where you could, but mostly you heard other performers.

    All those people [Marcus is] talking about, you could hear the actual people singing those ballads. You could hear Clarence Ashley, Doc Watson, Dock Boggs, the Memphis Jug Band, Furry Lewis. You could see those people live and in person. They were around. He intellectualizes it too much. Performers did know of that record, but it wasn’t, in retrospect, the monumental iconic recordings at the time that he makes them out to be.

    In a 2013 interview with the podcast Kreative Kontrol Marcus says that Bob Dylan told him, “Why don’t you write part two of Invisible Republic? You know you only scratched the surface.”

    In his 2005 essay “Harry Smith, Bob Dylan, and ‘The Ramblers Step’” Kurt Gegenhuber explores the notion of Dylan’s actual listening habits. Gegenhuber writes, “I’m now convinced that the single most important vehicle delivering Harry Smith’s peculiar message to Dylan in those early days — the widest pipeline between Harry and Bob — was The New Lost City Ramblers. I’m also convinced that it matters, this missing what I think of as ‘The Ramblers Step.’”

    Gegenhuber points out that when writing about the Anthology of American Folk Music song “Henry Lee” that, “…Marcus has erased the Ramblers from the trail of evidence.” The version of the song by Tom Paley of the New Lost City Ramblers, called “Love Henry,” which shares the same title and arrangement as Dylan’s, and which Dylan mentions in his liner notes to his 1993 album World Gone Wrong, is not mentioned at all by Marcus.

    It is important to consider that Robert Hunter sent his email about allusions to the New Lost City Ramblers in “Uncle John’s Band” to David Dodd in late 1996, and Dodd posted it online soon after, and that Marcus’ book, which misses “The Ramblers Step,” was released in 1997. I think it’s likely that these parallel events played a role in Bob Dylan creating his response to “Uncle John’s Band.”

    The vehicle by which Bob Dylan appears to respond to Marcus was suggested by Marcus himself. In Invisible Republic Marcus writes about the relationship between Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe” and Dylan’s “Clothesline Saga,” which was originally titled “Answer to Ode.”

    In the grand tradition of rock ’n’ roll answer records—from Etta James’s 1954 “Roll with Me Henry” (her hit reply to Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’ number-one R & B classic “Work with Me Annie”) to the Spokesmen’s 1965 “The Dawn of Correction” (their patriotic retort to then new-Dylan Barry McGuire’s number-one protest anthem “Eve of Destruction”…the idea was for a nowhere artist to catch the tail of a star and ride it to fame and fortune, or more likely notice and the price of a round of drinks. More than that, though, the answer record was a game, a fan’s game, like making up new words to a song you can’t understand or arguing about a record that refuses to explain itself. The great public conversation about “Ode to Billie Joe” was in its way the ultimate answer record. As “Answer to ‘Ode’,” the song that was finally released as “Clothesline Saga”—in 1975, on the sole official Basement Tapes album—was part of that conversation, but in 1967 and after it was also its opposite: a secret answer record, which contained a kind of secret public. Ignoring the rules of answer-record making, which required that for would-be hit purposes one focus directly on the original’s lyric theme or story line (the proper title for an answer to “Ode” would have been something like “I Know What Billie Joe McAllister Threw Off the Tallahatchie Bridge”), “Clothesline Saga” applied the language and the tone of voice of “Ode to Billie Joe” to a whole nation; like Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it masked a whole town.

    A secret answer record that ignores the rules of answer-record making is exactly what Dylan’s “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” is. It is also a record that points out the missing link in Marcus’ Invisible Republic.

    Dylan builds many of the songs on his “Love And Theft” album around preexisting musical templates. Drummer David Kemper discussed the process in an interview from a program hosted by musician Patti Smith titled A Bob Dylan Podcast:

    We’d go in a rehearsal hall and we just would play for three days. And a lot of times before we did “Love And Theft,” like I remember one period of three days where we’d play only Dean Martin songs. And we’d, you know, we’d play ‘em on the record player, we’d listen to “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” and he’d sing it and we, then we’re ready, we could do a whole, we could do a gig playing those songs. But we never, ever played them. We just polished them up and that was that. And he would do that with, um, Johnnie and Jack songs and Stanley Brothers songs and, you know, real early, earlier American artists too. And he would turn us onto these things and he’d bring records in and give us tapes of these recordings with real early stuff. And then the next day at rehearsal we’d run through them and learn to play them and most of them we never would play. And the first day we went in to record “Love And Theft” I know he said, “Alright, the first song we’re gonna start with is this song.” And he’d play it for us on his guitar. And then he would say, “You know, I want to do it in the style of this song.” And he’d play an early song, and, like, we started with “Summer Days” and he’d play a song called “Rebecca” by Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner. And then it became apparent to me that he’d been training us for, you know, a year, over a year, to learn these old styles…

    The musical template that Dylan chose for “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” is Johnnie and Jack’s “Uncle John’s Bongos” from 1961. Beyond the obvious similarity in title to “Uncle John’s Band” the song’s comic tale of a Tennessee fiddle player who travels to Greenwich Village to become a bongo playing beatnik is a perfect vehicle to use if one wanted to create an ode to John Cohen. Cohen’s work and life encompasses both of those worlds, as shown, for instance, by his photographs of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and his championing of musicians such as Kentucky’s Roscoe Holcomb through his ethnographic pursuits.

    The theme of “Uncle John’s Bongos” also resonates when one considers John Cohen’s role in bringing old time musicians to New York City. Dylan has mentioned that one could see musicians such as Clarence Ashley, Doc Watson and Dock Boggs live and in person. The reason that Dylan could see those performers has to do with John Cohen’s role as a founding director of the organization Friends of Old Time Music. This group brought Ashley, Watson, Boggs and many others to New York City to perform. Bob Dylan arrived in Manhattan on January 24, 1961 and the first Friends of Old Time Music show, featuring Roscoe Holcomb and the New Lost City Ramblers, took place a mere eighteen days later.

    Alessandro Carrera mentions Dylan’s use of “Uncle John’s Bongos” in the annotations for his Italian translation of Bob Dylan’s Lyrics 1962-2001; a publication which one must assume Dylan’s organization sanctioned. Carrera begins his entry on “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” with, “La musica e adattata da Uncle John’s Bongos dei Dixieland Drifters (1961).”

    Based on David Kemper’s recollections of Dylan playing Johnnie and Jack songs to the band, as well as the many live performances of Johnnie and Jack songs by Dylan between 1999 and 2001, it is easy to dismiss Carrera’s suggestion that the Dixieland Drifters’ version was Dylan’s starting point.

    There are four lines that appear to have connections to the New Lost City Ramblers in “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum.” Dylan begins by taking a line from the New Lost City Ramblers’ version of a mining song called “That Little Lump of Coal.” The New Lost City Ramblers released their version in 1968. Their source was a 1940 field recording made available on the 1965 album Songs and Ballads of the Bituminous Miners. The only printed version of this song that I’ve been able to find appeared in the United Mine Workers Journal in 1936. It is fair to say that the song is obscure. The only other recording of this song that I’ve been able to locate is one mentioned in the liner notes to the New Lost City Ramblers’ album: a 1967 Folkways LP by George Davis, the Singing Miner of Hazard County. The album was produced by John Cohen. The Davis album features fiddler Marion Sumner on several tunes. The liner notes mention that Sumner played with Johnnie and Jack.

    Here’s the second verse of “That Little Lump of Coal”:

    Oh, he gets up in the morning, he’s in the Land of Nod
    And at the family altar he will kneel and ask his God
    Oh, to care for and protect him from danger underground
    So he come back in the evening to his family safe and sound

    The second verse of “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” begins with “Living in the Land of Nod/ Trustin’ their fate to the Hands of God”. This credibility of this borrowing is increased by taking a look at the eight verse of “That Little Lump of Coal”:

    So brother, when you’re knocking on the man who digs the coal
    Just stop, and think he’s human, and he’s got a heart and soul
    And don’t forget the millions of tons he loaded out
    When the Kaiser tried to smear on us his lager beer and kraut

    In the “Love And Theft” song “Cry A While” Dylan sings, “Some people they ain’t human, they got no heart or soul.” Lines from two other songs from this same 1968 New Lost City Ramblers album also appear in “Cry A While.” The line “All right, I’ll set you straight, can’t you see I’m a union man?” has its roots in the New Lost City Ramblers’ version of the Hobo Jack Adkins song “Union Man.” Dylan constructs “But the Pennsylvania line’s in an awful mess and the Denver road is about to melt” out of lines from “Timetable Blues,” a song they learned from an artist named Captain Appleblossom. The sixteen verses of “Timetable Blues” include the names of twenty-six U. S. railroad lines. Dylan has grafted bits from the ninth verse:

    The Wabash is a-runnin’ fine
    Tryin’ to keep up with the Pennsylvania Line
    Pennsylvania Line’s in an awful mess
    Tryin’ to make connection with the C&S

    And the fifteenth verse:

    The West Shore with an awful load
    Tryin’ to make connection with the Denver Road
    And the Denver Road, just about to melt
    Tryin’ to keep up with the Cotton Belt

    Another example of Dylan picking an obscure line with ties to the New Lost City Ramblers in “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” is, “They seem determined to go all the way.” Dylan is quoting the song “Roane County Strike at Harriman, Tennessee” as recorded by Mike Seeger on his 1966 album Tipple, Loom & Rail: Songs of the Industrialization of the South. Seeger learned the tune from a field recording made by ethnographer Sidney Cowell in 1936. There are no commercial recordings of this song. The fourth verse of “Roane County Strike at Harriman, Tennessee” is:

    Some went to the mill and there they betrayed us
    Some gone to their graves I’m sorry to say
    But some stood out to wait the decision
    They seem determined to go all the way

    There are other examples of Dylan using peculiar lines from Tipple, Loom & Rail in “Love and Theft” songs. In “Po’ Boy” Dylan sings, “Out beyond the twinklin’ stars” in the fourth verse of the song; a verse about trains. One finds this line in the obscure railroad disaster song “Edward Lewis” The liner notes to Tipple, Loom & Rail mention the song’s obscurity: “‘Edward Lewis’ never ‘got away’ from its composer or first singer, and hence fails to meet at least one basic criterion for folksong definition: movement in time and place.” John Lomax captured the song in a 1936 field recording. Dylan rhymes, “Out beyond the twinklin’ stars” with, “Tryin’ to keep from fallin’ between the cars.” This is likely a reference to the popular train disaster song “The True and Trembling Brakeman.” Some versions begin with, “See that true and trembling brakeman/As he falls between those cars.” Mike Seeger sings a variant of this song, “The Reckless Motor Man,” on Tipple, Loom & Rail. It’s worth mentioning that the term “poor boy” is the end of the refrain in the Tipple, Loom & Rail song “Hard Times in These Mines.” Seeger sings the phrase “poor boy” eight times in the song.

    In the third verse of “Po’ Boy” Dylan sings, “Been workin’ on the mainline—workin’ like the devil/The game is the same—it’s just on a different level.” This bears a striking resemblance to a line in the song “Cotton Mill Colic,” yet another track on Mike Seeger’s Tipple, Loom & Rail. Seeger sings, “When you go to work you work like the devil/At the end of the week you’re not on the level.”

    “Tweedle-dee Dee is a lowdown, sorry old man” is how Dylan begins the final verse of “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum.” This line shows Dylan to be attuned to slight variations in lyrics. This line has roots in the song “Country Blues.” The 1927 version by Dock Boggs is on Anthology of American Folk Music, and this recording is mentioned in the liner notes of the Ramblers album New Lost City Ramblers, Vol. 5. There are many versions of “Country Blues,” and almost all of them, including this version by Dock Boggs, have the phrase, “with a lowdown sorry man.” This is a floating phrase that shows up in other songs, including “Darling Corey” and “Little Maggie,” for example. The phrase, “lowdown sorry old man” is peculiar, and this addition of the word “old” to this phrase in this context appears to be peculiar to John Cohen’s version on New Lost City Ramblers,Vol. 5. It’s the only exception I’ve been able to find.

    The seventh verse of “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” begins with, “Well, the rain beating down on my window pane.” The song “Bachelor Blues,” as recorded by the New Lost City Ramblers on their album Rural Delivery Number One, begins with, “The rain is beating, it’s on my window pane”. On “Love And Theft” Dylan quotes from other songs that appear on Rural Delivery Number One. For instance, the line “The meat is so tough you can’t cut it with a sword” in Dylan’s song “Honest With Me” appears to be drawn from “The meat you cannot cut it with a sword” from the Ramblers recording of “Hungry Hash House.” The line, “I’m counting on you love, to give me a break” in the “Love And Theft” song “Summer Days” is right out of the song “Twenty-One Years,” the sixteenth track on Rural Delivery Number One.

    Dylan begins the third verse of “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” with, “Well, they’re going to the country, they’re gonna retire.” Gone to the Country is the title of a 1963 New Lost City Ramblers album, and the title of a short film they made. The title is the punch line to a classic backwoods joke; a joke that Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tracy Schwarz act out in their film.

    One last possible allusion to the New Lost City Ramblers in “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” is the line, “They’re making a voyage to the sun.” In The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia Michael Gray ends his entry on John Cohen with this: “…one of his field recordings, of a young girl singing an Andean huayno in the Quechua language, is up there on the Voyager spacecraft, traveling beyond the solar system to the stars.”

    An examination of the 1962 New Lost City Ramblers album American Moonshine and Prohibition Songs provides more examples of Dylan incorporating lines from obscure songs. The first three songs on the album are “Virginia Bootlegger,” “Kentucky Bootlegger” and “Bootlegger’s Story.”

    In “Cry a While” Dylan sings, “I'm gonna buy me a barrel of whiskey.” This same line is repeated four times in “Virginia Bootlegger.” In the “Love And Theft” song “Sugar Baby” Dylan sings, “Some of these bootleggers, they make pretty good stuff.” Many interpret this line as a response to the bootleg record industry, but one must also consider that “Kentucky Bootlegger” includes the lines, “Some moonshiners make pretty good stuff/Bootleggers use it to mix it up.”

    I suggest that the “Love And Theft” song “Moonlight” has ties to “Bootlegger’s Story”—and a look at the song’s lyrics reveals another example of the New Lost City Ramblers being written out of the equation when considering Dylan’s work. In the book Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2006 Clinton Heylin writes:

    When setting out to write “Moonlight,” Dylan was again taking song ideas from the very font of Americana. “Meet Me by the Moonlight Alone” was one of A. P. Carter's famous hybrids, combining the traditional “Prisoner Song” with an early nineteenth-century English parlor song by Joseph Augustine Wade. First recorded by the Carter Family in May 1928, it became one of their most popular songs.

    “Bootlegger’s Story” uses the melody and some of the lyrics of “Meet Me by the Moonlight Alone.” This is another instance where a close look at a few lyrical peculiarities reveals the New Lost City Ramblers as an intermediate source. The question that Dylan asks five times in his song is, “Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight alone?” The refrain of the Carter Family song is:

    Meet me by the moonlight, love, meet me
    Meet me by the moonlight alone
    For I have a sad story to tell you
    To be told by the moonlight alone

    The refrain of “Bootlegger’s Story” is:

    So it’s meet me tonight, oh pal meet me
    Meet me out in the moonlight alone
    For I have ten gallons of good whiskey
    Must be sold by the light of the moon

    There are dozens of recordings of “Meet Me by the Moonlight Alone” that share the line “meet me by the moonlight alone.” The variant “meet me out in the moonlight alone” is peculiar to “Bootlegger’s Story.”

    In the book Life on the Tracks: Bob Dylan’s Songs Guido Bieri considers the line “Well, the devil’s in the alley, mule’s in the stall” in the “Love And Theft” song “Mississippi.” Bieri writes, “Dylan adds to this line what is likely another quotation: ‘The devil’s in the alley’ recalls ‘Devil’s in your alley and he’s comin’ after you’ from Dorsey Dixon's ‘Weave Room Blues’ (1932).”

    This appears to be yet another case where the New Lost City Ramblers have been missed as an intermediate source, as version of this song appears on The New Lost City Ramblers, Vol. 3.

    In Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2006 Clinton Heylin writes about a line in the “Love And Theft” song “High Water (For Charley Patton)”:

    “Keeping away from the women, I’m giving them lots of room” is a clever play on the rhyming line (“I believe I'll dust my broom”), though only if one knows it comes from the traditional nagging song “Bald Headed End of a Broom” the chorus of which goes:

    Oh boys, stay away from the girls,
    I say, Oh give them lots of room.
    They’ll find you and you’ll wed,
    And they’ll bang you till you’re dead
    With the bald-headed end of a broom

    This is perhaps yet another instance of a New Lost City Ramblers connection being overlooked as an intermediate source, as Mike Seeger recorded “The Baldheaded End of a Broom” on his 1962 album Oldtime Country Music.

    The title of Dylan’s 2006 album functions as a flashing marquee, one that serves to point back to “Love And Theft” and its many ties to the New Lost City Ramblers; ties missed by every critic. Dylan’s Modern Times share its title with the 1968 New Lost City Ramblers album that includes the songs “That Little Lump of Coal,” “Union Man” and “Timetable Blues”—songs from which, as shown earlier, Bob Dylan took very distinctive lines. The depth of the relationship between these titles went unnoticed.

    On Bob Dylan’s next album, 2009’s Together Through Life, nine of the ten songs are collaborations with Robert Hunter. Sean Wilentz, in his 2010 book Bob Dylan in America, writes this about the song “Jolene”: “Once more the simplest of the songs can contain layers that approach allusion, but only just.”

    Wilentz could not be more wrong. “Jolene” consists of nothing but allusion. After Bob Dylan answered Robert Hunter’s “Uncle John’s Band” allusions with a series of his own allusions the two writers are seen to be engaging in this songwriting strategy together. Hunter and Dylan construct the lyrics of “Jolene” almost entirely out of lines from songs associated with Willy DeVille, nine songs in total; songs that appear on the Mink DeVille albums Cabretta and Return To Magenta.

    Dylan has made a habit of incorporating material not only into his songs and prose, but into interviews. Many recent interviews have been described as a mix of face to face discussions and follow up correspondence via email. Dylan mentioned a concept album by the New Lost City Ramblers in a 2011 interview with John Elderfield (not one on the albums from which he has lifted lines). He states this in the interview: “I’m pretty much interested in people, histories, myth, and portraits; people of all stripes. But dance-hall atmospheres, shacks in the Allegheny Mountains, farm fields in Iowa … I can identify with that too. So my technique, if you want to call it that, pretty much runs the gamut. I seldom, if ever, change my mind on the purpose of what I’m trying to accomplish.”

    In that passage Dylan is incorporating elements from a 1960 newspaper review of a performance by the New Lost City Ramblers. This part of the review is quoted in Ray Allen’s 2010 book Gone to the Country: The New Lost City Ramblers and the Folk Music Revival.

    Dylan’s 2012 release Tempest shows the familiar pattern of musical templates and appropriated lines to still be in use. For instance, the Dylan/Hunter collaboration “Duquesne Whistle” uses the recording “Each Day” by Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers as its template. Ian Bell describes the template for the title track as, “…an almost straight lift from ‘The Titanic’, a Carter Family song from the early 1950s” in his book Time Out of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan.

    I suggest that this lift isn’t straight, but that it took a turn through the New Lost City Ramblers. The Carter Family’s reunion sessions in the fifties for Clifford Spurlock’s Acme Records label are obscure, even among Carter Family fans. Unlike their earlier recordings the Acme material saw limited release and contained no hits. The obscurity of this recording is reflected many reviews of Dylan’s record. The “Tempest” template has been consistently misidentified as “The Great Titanic,” an earlier and more popular recording by the Carter Family, but one that bears no resemblance melodically or lyrically to Dylan’s song. The New Lost City Ramblers recorded a version of the Carter Family’s “The Titanic” on their album Remembrance of Things to Come. I suggest this is likely where Dylan would have first heard this song, and this is yet another example of the New Lost City Ramblers being left out of the conversation.

    In 2011 I sent some of my research to Tracy Schwarz of the New Lost City Ramblers. He forwarded my correspondence to John Cohen and Cohen and I later spoke on the phone. Cohen shared a few anecdotes he thought might be of use.

    Cohen told me that Tracy Schwarz told him that around the time that Dylan would have been working on Chronicles: Volume One, a friend of Schwarz’s told him he had been on Bob Dylan’s tour bus and had spotted a stack of New Lost City Ramblers records.

    Cohen didn’t remember what year it was, but he recalled having a nice talk with Dylan backstage at Madison Square Garden. Dylan mentioned that he liked Cohen’s recording of the song “Moonshiner.” Cohen thought that Dylan was referring to a version of “Moonshiner” by Roscoe Holcomb that he had recorded and produced. Dylan clarified that he meant Cohen’s version. Cohen told me that he asked Dylan, “Did I record it?” He says that Dylan pointed out the version from 1962’s American Moonshine and Prohibition Songs album. Cohen had forgotten, but Dylan hadn’t.

    His final anecdote dates from 2006. Dylan did a show at a small baseball field near Cohen’s home and they had a visit backstage. In 2005 a Banjo Bill Cornett CD that Cohen produced was released through the Field Recorders’ Collective. Cohen was very happy with this release and had brought along a copy for Dylan. When he gave the CD to Dylan he says Dylan asked him if he had heard his new record. When Cohen said that he hadn’t Dylan ran into his tour bus and came back with a copy. Cohen told me that he looked at the CD and said “Oh, Modern Times. You know, we did an album by that name.” Cohen says that Dylan’s reply was, “Yeah, I know.”

    Of course Dylan knew. He also must have known that the title could serve as an Easter egg, one that could lead to the basket of eggs included in “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum,” Easter eggs that reveal the song’s secret relationship to “Uncle John’s Band” and Grateful Dead lore, and to the continuing trail of Easter eggs that Dylan uses to express, in his own enigmatic way, his appreciation of the pioneering work of the New Lost City Ramblers.


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  2. In 2006 poet and critic Stephen Scobie, author of Alias Bob Dylan, presented a paper titled "WHISKEY SAUCE: or, CHRONICLES: VOLUME TWO." In it he devotes a substantial chunk to exploring a "apparently simple or inconsequential" passage from Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One. Scobie was right to be intrigued by the passage, but his analysis came up short, in that he missed a fascinating thing that Dylan does with the writing of Ernest Hemingway.
    The passage that captivated Scobie appears on page 170 of Chronicles: Volume One. It is the late 80's and Dylan writes about being in a creative slump and, "...exploiting whatever talent I had beyond the breaking point." On what he feels will be a breakthrough in his live performances he sustains an injury to his hand. He writes, "After being on the threshold of something bold, innovative and adventurous, I was now on the threshold of nothing, ruined." While waiting to see how and if his hand will heal he starts writing lyrics again. Then comes this:
    One day I went to the clinic where the doctor examined my hand, said the healing was coming along fine and that the feeling in the nerves might have a chance of coming back soon. It was encouraging to hear that. I returned to the house where my eldest son was sitting around in the kitchen with his soon-to-be-wife. There was a thick seafood stew brewing up on the stove as I walked by. I took the cover off the pot to check it out.
    “What do you think?” my future daughter-in-law asked.
    “What about the whiskey sauce?”
    “It has to be arranged,” she said.
    I dropped the cover back on the pot and went out to the garage. The rest of the day went by like a puff of wind.
    Here's a bit of Scobie's take:
    The passage begins in a matter-of-fact tone: I went to the clinic, the doctor said. When he records his feelings, he does so in an ironic understatement, so straight-faced as to be hilarious: told that his hand wound is healing, and that he may soon be able to play music again, all he says is “It was encouraging to hear that.” Then comes an anecdote about a seafood stew, foreshadowing the New Orleans setting later in the chapter. Bob as gourmet chef: tasting, advising. It all seems like a simple, almost banal incident: what is the point of including it in an autobiography? If there is a point, it seems to be contained in the answer by “my future daughter-in-law”: “It has to be arranged.” But this proves to be a cryptic line. Is “has to be” being used as a loose future tense —“It has still to be arranged, but will be”—or in the stronger sense of a necessity— “It must be arranged”? How exactly do you “arrange” a sauce? Should we take seriously the further sense of a musical “arrangement,” and see the line as looking forward to the main topic of the chapter, the recording of Oh Mercy: are Daniel Lanois’ arrangements the “whiskey sauce” for Dylan’s songs? As it turns out, we never do find out whether or not the sauce was added. The line is left hanging, and we turn to the simplicity of “went out to the garage.” Then Dylan caps the anecdote with a concise simile (the only overt image in this passage): “The rest of the day went by like a puff of wind.” It is on the one hand unrevealing: whatever happened between Dylan and his family, even whether the stew was any good or not, is not going to be told. But on the other hand, the image, simple as it is, opens up the whole scene, explodes its limitations, nudges towards the universal. The image is simultaneously of the elemental and of the transient. (And that’s not even to begin to consider the multiple echoes of “wind” in Dylan’s work.)
    Scobie makes some good points, but he misses the critical element. I suggest that what he did not recognize is that Dylan has telescoped an entire Ernest Hemingway short story, one that is apropos thematically, into those 135 words. I also suggest that Dylan lets the careful reader know of his intent to engage in this type of activity earlier in the book, through the use of passages from the same Hemingway short story.
    Scobie is right to recognize the foreshadowing of the New Orleans setting that comes a bit later in the book via the food that is discussed - the thick seafood stew and the whiskey sauce. I've demonstrated previously that a reference Dylan used to glean some images for that New Orleans section of the book is the travel guide New Orleans by Bethany Bultman. That is one of the things that is going on here as well.
    Here are two passages from the same page of Bultman's book.
    New Orleans, p. 226, "The tomato, when coupled with a roux, became an integral component in Shrimp Creole; the rich gravy for grillades; and the base for court bouillon (pronounced 'coo-bo-yon'), a thick seafood stew similar to bouillabaisse."
    New Orleans, p. 226, "Meatless gumbo z'herbes is eaten for Lent; bread pudding with whiskey sauce or pain perdu utilizes every last crumb of French bread; and what would the Christmas turkey be without oyster dressing, or breakfast without chicory cafe au lait?"
    Scobie states, "...we never do find out whether or not the sauce was added." No gourmet chef from New Orleans would ever add whiskey sauce to court bouillon, because it would be a flavor train wreck. Scobie may be no gastronome, but deserves credit for recognizing that thick seafood stew and whiskey sauce are New Orleans cuisine. This passage is the first use of material from Bultman's book in Chronicles: Volume One, and it is also the first time that he combines her writing with Hemingway's. In this case the two items also act as substitutes for elements from a Hemingway short story.
    In my essay "The Hidden Confederates in Bob Dylan's Attic" I presented an example from page 203 of Chronicles: Volume One that shows Dylan combining material from Bultman and Hemingway in the same sentence. On page 181 Dylan also combines elements from the two writers into one sentence - twice.
    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 181, "A place to come and hope you'll get smart - to feed pigeons looking for handouts."
    New Orleans, p. 85, "As the decades pass, Jackson Square — the old town square that faces the river — continues to be vitally alive with new generations of neighborhood children playing ball, lovers having a lunch-time smooch over a muffuletta, pigeons looking for handouts, and itinerant artists sketching the passersby."
    From "The Last Good Country" by Ernest Hemingway:
    "This time of year the Indians call them fool hens. After they've been hunted they get smart. They're not the real fool hens. Those never get smart. They're willow grouse. These are ruffed grouse.”
    I hope we'll get smart,” his sister said."
    Also on page 181 of Chronicles: Volume One comes this from Dylan, "Italianate, Gothic, Romanesque, Greek Revival standing in a long line in the rain." This sentence also contains both Bultman and Hemingway.
    New Orleans, p. 118, "These innovations allowed other decorative styles to flourish as well, particularly the Italianate, Gothic, and Romanesque."
    From "Cat in The Rain" by Ernest Hemingway, "The sea broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back down the beach to come up and break again in a long line in the rain."
    Perhaps to make sure that the use of Hemingway was not missed Dylan also includes other smatterings of Papa on the same page. I’ll present two here; the most obvious lines.
    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 181, "There's only one day at a time here, then it's tonight and then tomorrow will be today again."
    From "The Last Good Country" by Ernest Hemingway, "He had already learned there was only one day at a time and that it was always the day you were in. It would be today until it was tonight and tomorrow would be today again."
    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 181, "Somebody puts something in front of you here and you might as well drink it."
    From "Out of Season" by Ernest Hemingway, "The young gentleman put one of the marsalas in front of her. 'You might as well drink it,' he said, 'maybe it'll make you feel better.'"
    Throughout Chronicles: Volume One lie numerous bits of Hemingway. An early one comes on page 60. Dylan lists a number of things that he spies in a room. He writes of, "...things to marvel over—a little machine that put out four volts, a small Mohawk tape recorder, odd photos, one of Florence Nightingale with a pet owl on her shoulder, novelty postcards—a picture postcard from California with a palm tree." Then he states, "I'd never been to California. It seemed like it was the place of some special, glamorous race."
    Dylan is referencing a dig at F. Scott Fitzgerald from Hemingway's short story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro":
    He remembered poor Julian and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, "The very rich are different from you and me." And how someone had said to Julian, "Yes they have more money. But that was not humorous to Julian. He thought they were a special glamorous race and when he found they weren't it wrecked him just as much as any other thing that wrecked him.
    I suggest that the Mohawk tape recorder on Dylan's list is Hemingway's as well. Dylan uses material from the letters of a number of writers in Chronicles: Volume One, including Jack London and Thomas Wolfe. Here he turns to Hemingway’s letters.
    Dear Papa, Dear Hotch: The Correspondence of Ernest Hemingway and A.E. Hotchner, p. 269, "They would like you to speak onto one of your Mohawk tapes a sentence or two about THE KILLERS. Anything at all that can be used at the start of the show..."
    Dear Papa, Dear Hotch: The Correspondence of Ernest Hemingway and A.E. Hotchner, p. 270, "I cannot do the thing with the (Mohawk tape recorder) box as we got your letter yesterday + the box is in Malaga. If you really need something let me know..."
    The “whiskey sauce” passage appears in the “Oh Mercy” section of the book, and Dylan primes the reader for this passage by using Hemingway at least eleven times in the section before getting to that passage. I’ll present two of the more obvious ones.
    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 151, "In the beginning all I could get out was a blood-choked coughing grunt and it blasted up from the bottom of my lower self, but it bypassed my brain."
    "The Short Happy Life of Frances Macomber" by Ernest Hemingway, "...his rifle cocked, they had just moved into the grass when Macomber heard the blood- choked coughing grunt, and saw the swishing rush in the grass."
    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 153, "I had a new faculty and it seemed to surpass all the other human requirements."
    "Fathers and Sons" by Ernest Hemingway, "Like all men with a faculty that surpasses human requirements, his father was very nervous."
    In "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" Harry has sustained an injury to his leg that has turned gangrenous while on safari in Africa. While waiting for help, which Harry is sure will not arrive in time, his wife urges him to keep his strength up. Harry knows that he is going to die and death visits him in a number of forms. Harry reflects on how he squandered his writing talent by selling out for an easy life among the rich. While on his death cot he muses on the stories that he did not write through a series of flashbacks.
    At one point in the story Harry wants to write and considers a way that he might be able to make it happen and has this exchange with his wife Helen:
    "You can't take dictation, can you?"
    "I never learned," she told him.
    "That's all right."
    There wasn't time, of course, although it seemed as though it telescoped so that you might put it all into one paragraph if you could get it right.
    On page 61 of Chronicles: Volume One (which just happens to be opposite the “special, glamorous race” lift) it is clear that Dylan is considering that passage when he writes:
    I needed to learn how to telescope things, ideas. Things were too big to see all at once, like all the books in the library—everything laying around on all the tables. You might be able to put it all into one paragraph or into one verse of a song if you could get it right.
    By doing this Dylan suggests a game plan; an intention to telescope "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" into one paragraph - if he can get it right. The first line on page 62 lays this out for the careful reader: '"Little things foreshadow what's coming, but you may not recognize them."
    I’ll breakdown how Dylan telescopes the 10,000-plus words of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" into a mere 135 words, and then I’ll add some context to what Dylan is doing with the use of the Hemingway material by exploring how another writer did a similar thing with the story, even borrowing some of the same material.
    “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a story of death, but based on the context in which Dylan places his telescoped version death plays a secondary role. Dylan is primarily interested in Harry’s thoughts on how he wasted his talent and the relationship between Harry and his wife Helen.
    Hemingway opens the story with, “‘The marvelous thing is that it’s painless,’ he said. ‘That’s how you know when it starts.’” We also learn that, “Since the gangrene started in his right leg he had no pain and with the pain the horror had gone and all he felt now was a great tiredness and anger that this was the end of it” as well as, “He could stand pain as well as any man, until it went on too long, and wore him out, but here he had something that had hurt frightfully and just when he had felt it breaking him, the pain had stopped.”
    Harry has no pain, no feeling in the nerves of his gangrenous leg. Dylan aligns with this by telling the reader, “My hand had been gashed pretty good — no feeling in the nerves.” He asks, “If my hand didn't heal, what was I going to do with the remainder of my days?”
    A turning point for Dylan comes with, “One day I went to the clinic where the doctor examined my hand, said the healing was coming along fine and that the feeling in the nerves might have a chance of coming back soon.” Harry gets no such second chance.
    Helen’s hope for Harry’s recovery and Harry’s resignation that he is going to die play out in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” through a series of scenes where she asks him to have some broth and he demands a whiskey-soda. You can go through the story with a highlighter and mark these sections if you want, but for convenience I’ve telescoped these parts down into a playlet I’ll call “Broth and Whiskey-soda”:
    "I shot a Tommy ram," she told him. "He'll make you good broth and I'll have them mash some potatoes with the Klim. You ought to take some broth to keep your strength up."
    "Why don't you use your nose? I'm rotted half way up my thigh now. What the hell should I fool with broth for? Molo bring whiskey-soda."
    "Please take the broth," she said gently.
    The broth was too hot. He had to hold it in the cup until it cooled enough to take it and then he just got it down without gagging.
    "Wouldn't you like some more broth?" the woman asked him now.
    "No, thank you very much. It is awfully good."
    "Try just a little."
    "I would like a whiskey-soda."
    "It's not good for you."
    "No. It's bad for me. Cole Porter wrote the words and the music. This knowledge that you're going mad for me."
    "You know I like you to drink."
    "Oh yes. Only it's bad for me."
    "Molo!" he shouted.
    "Yes Bwana."
    "Bring whiskey-soda."
    "Yes Bwana."
    "You shouldn't," she said. "That's what I mean by giving up. It says it's bad for you. I know it's bad for you."
    "No," he said. "It's good for me. Should we have a drink? The sun is down."
    "Do you think you should?"
    "I'm having one."
    "We'll have one together. Molo, letti dui whiskey-soda!" she called.
     In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” hope and resignation are represented by broth and whiskey-soda. If I were to telescope “Broth and Whiskey-soda” even more it would become a single exchange, with each item mentioned once. This is what Dylan does, although his version might be titled “Thick Seafood Stew and Whiskey Sauce.” Dylan substitutes Hemingway’s items for two similar items that he happened to find on the same page of Bultman’s travel guide. By doing this he gets to play out these exchanges between Harry and Helen in a muted manner, while at the same foreshadowing his upcoming trip to New Orleans. Dylan also allows the careful reader the ability to track back to this passage by the repeated, and more obvious, combinations of Hemingway and Bultman that he throws at the reader later on.
    Dylan ends his 135 word scene with, “The rest of the day went by like a puff of wind.” Scobie asks the reader to, “consider the multiple echoes of ‘wind’ in Dylan’s work.” If you start down that path, beginning with, “Well, Bob Dylan wrote a song called ‘Blowin’ In the Wind’…” you will not get any closer to what is going on here. It is a dead end.
    The things to consider are the multiple echoes of the puff through the work of many writers. In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” death comes in many forms, and one is a puff: “This time there was no rush. It was a puff, as of a wind that makes a candle flicker and the flame go tall.” When Dylan writes, “The rest of the day went by like a puff of wind” it is death that is echoing by.
    Dylan gives the reader an injury that no longer feels pain, hope and resignation in the form of the thick seafood stew and the whiskey sauce, and death in the form of a puff. He also places it in a broader context of the unattended, neglected muse. For Dylan it is Harry’s realization that he didn’t get the stories written that he should have, and his thoughts on what he can do in the face of his impending death, that are paramount. Harry’s, "You can't take dictation, can you?" to Helen, and the unwritten stories that Harry presents in the telescoped flashbacks dovetails with what Dylan presents in that section of the book. Not sure that he’ll able to perform again in the wake of his devastating injury, he returns to writing, sketching out the lyrics for the songs that will fill his album Oh Mercy.
    Dylan avoids the sometimes fatal mistake of tacking on a happy ending to “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by wrapping up the section with a paragraph that begins with, “In time, my hand got right and it was ironic. I stopped writing the songs.”
    William Burroughs wrote his own telescoped version of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and exploring this, as well as Burroughs’ thoughts on Hemingway and the use of the material of others, as well as how Dylan has used the material of Burroughs and how the material that both writers take from Hemingway overlaps adds useful context to what Dylan is doing in Chronicles: Volume One.
    A piece called "The Night Bob Came Round" by Raymond Foye appears in the book Wanted Man: In Search of Bob Dylan. Foye relates a 1985 encounter he had with Dylan at Allen Ginsberg's apartment. Harry Smith is staying with Ginsberg and Dylan wants to meet him, but Smith gives him the cold shoulder. Foye relates this exchange between Dylan and Ginsberg: "You still see Burroughs?" he asked. "I'm seeing him in Boulder next week," Allen responded. "Tell him... tell him I've been reading him," Dylan stammered. "And I believe every word he says."
    Empire Burlesque was released in June of 1985. Of course there was plenty of Burroughs material to read by that point, but The Adding Machine: Collected Essays had been released earlier that year. The book contains an essay on Hemingway, which touches on "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" also comes up in an essay on creative reading.
    In his review for Library Journal William Gargan complains that the collection is "occasionally marred by repetition," but when it comes to Burroughs that is completely missing the point. Burroughs was a raconteur who worked with his routines. He would riff on the same notion for decades, and he would recast similar material in a broad range of different contexts. Tracing the development on an idea, or use of a specific image, through his novels, short stories, lectures, films, classes, letters and essays is one of the great joys of studying Burroughs.
    The Adding Machine includes an essay titled "Les Voleurs" (that's "The Thieves" if your French isn't up to snuff) in which he presents a manifesto he drew up with collaborator Brion Gysin that addresses an artist's right to use existing work. The manifesto includes, "Everything belongs to the inspired and dedicated thief" and ends with, "Vive le vol — pure, shameless, total. We are not responsible. Steal anything in sight."
    Here's how Burroughs begins his essay:
    Writers work with words and voices just as painters work with colors; and where do these words and voices come from? Many sources: conversations heard and overheard, movies and radio broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, yes, and other writers; a phrase comes into the mind from an old western story in a pulp magazine read years ago, can't remember where or when: “He looked at her, trying to read her mind — but her eyes were old, unbluffed, unreadable." There's one that I lifted.
    The first essay in The Adding Machine is "The Name is Burroughs." In it appears this description of Salt Chunk Mary: "You eat first and then you talk business, your gear slopped out on the kitchen table, her eyes old, unbluffed, unreadable." And as you fall through Burroughs' writing this image appears again and again and again. From 1983's The Place of Dead Roads: "Now his eyes, old, unbluffed, unreadable, rest on Kim, as if tracing his outline in the air." From the 1965 piece "St. Louis Return," collected in The Burroughs File: "Bradly turned to face the question his eyes unbluffed unreadable two fingers in a vest pocket rested lightly on the cold blue steel of his Remington derringer." From 1962's The Ticket That Exploded: "eyes old unbluffed unreadable he hasn't said a direct word in ten years and as you hear what the party was like and what happened at lunch you will begin to see sharp and clear". From 1964's Nova Express: "I woke him up and he looked around with slow hydraulic control his eyes unbluffed unreadable". From 1979's Ah Pook is Here, and Other Texts: "There are three of them, little men in dark suits and gray felt hats, cold gray underworld eyes alert, unbluffed, unreadable in the yellow putty big city night faces." From a chapter written for 1981's Cities of the Red Night, but ultimately not included: "Noah Blake is a 15-year-old boy, eyes cold unbluffed unreadable, with a bevy of giggling replicas."
    For the initiated reader "unbluffed unreadable" appear as shorthand, a quick spell that brings forth a lineup of similar characters. Victor Bockris worked the image into an exchange between Burroughs and Mick Jagger captured in his piece "The Captain's Cocktail Party: Dinner with Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol and William Burroughs":
    JAGGER: Who did you shoot, Bill? [There was a static pause. Burroughs' eyes, unbluffed, unreadable, pinned on Jagger's face, looking a little surprised that Mick was not aware that he had accidentally shot his wife in Mexico in 1948.]
    BURROUGHS: It's a long story. It's a bad story. But I haven't shot anyone right lately. I assure you of that, Mick. I been on my good behavior.
    Bockris returns to the image in his 2003 book Keith Richards: The Biography: "As Keith's eyes unbluffed, unreadable, periscoped disdainfully towards the unfortunate Slash, Was could have sworn they turned an inhuman, radiating black."
    This type of thematic patterning abounds in the writing of Burroughs. Read through his work and keep an eye out for variations on "most distasteful thing I ever stood still for," for example.
    In a 1976 lecture on writing sources, one that includes some of the ideas that show up in "Les Voleurs," Burroughs asks a couple of key questions:
    An important point here is the misconception that a writer creates in a vacuum using only his very own words. Was he blind, deaf and illiterate from birth? A writer does not own words any more than a painter owns colors, so let's dispense with this originality fetish. Is a painter committing plagiarism if he paints a mountain or a landscape that other painters have painted?
    Narrowing the focus down to Burroughs' writing on, and use of, Hemingway, and specifically his interest in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," yields some fascinating motifs. Burroughs devotes a lot of his writing to death; books of the dead, travel to the afterlife, mummification practices and the like. And it is death that draws Burroughs to the story. In his essay "Creative Reading" he writes:
    The Snows of Kilimanjaro was certainly the best if not the only writing Hemingway ever did. It is one of the best stories in the language about death, the stink of death. You know the writer has been there and brought it back. The end deserves a place among the great passages of English prose, with the end of Joyce's The Dead and the end of The Great Gatsby. The pilot was pointing: "White white white as far as the eye could see ahead, the snows of Kilimanjaro." And a blinding flash of white must have been the last thing Papa saw when he put the double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun against his forehead and tripped both triggers.
    In his essay "Hemingway" Burroughs returns to this last line:
    He wrote his life and death so closely that he had to be stopped before he found out what he was doing and wrote about that. There is the moment when the bull looks speculatively from the cape to the matador. The bull is learning. The matador must kill him quick. Two plane crashes in a row, both near Kilimanjaro. The matador has to smash his head against the window of a burning plane. Otherwise he would have found out why two planes crashed near Kilimanjaro; he wrote it. He wrote it in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, where Death is the pilot. "He was pointing now, white white white as far as the eye can see ahead, the snows of Kilimanjaro." That's the last line. He who writes death as the pilot of a small plane in Africa should beware of small planes in Africa, especially in the vicinity of Kilimanjaro. But it was written, and he stepped right into his own writing.
    Burroughs punctuates this with, "Fix yourself on that: 'White white white as far as the eye can see ahead . . . the snows of Kilimanjaro.'" Here Burroughs is also referencing the fix yourself on that/fix yourself on this dialogue from "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio," another short story that appears with “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in the collections The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories and The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories.
    If you do fix yourself on the "white white white" passage you'll find that Burroughs uses it all the time. In a 1963 letter to Brion Gysin he writes, "The interesting possibility of beneficial (to me of course and my uh ravenous constituents) virus is still in the laboratory stage but Doc Benway tells me 'We are getting some darned interesting side by golly'. Think of it. Boys to the sky and each one look like other. Its Heaven, kid far as the eye can see ahead the snows of Kilimanjaro."
    In Exterminator! it takes the form of an atomic blast:
    At Hiroshima all was lost. The metal sickness dormant 30,000 years stirring now in the blood and bones and bleached flesh. He cut himself shaving looked around for styptic pencil couldn't find one dabbed at his face with a towel remembering the smell and taste of burning metal in the tarnished mirror a teen-aged face crisscrossed with scar tissue pale grey eyes that seemed to be looking at something far away and long ago white white white as far as the eye can see ahead a blinding flash of white the cabin reeks of exploded star white lies the long denial from Christ to Hiroshima white voices always denying excusing the endless white papers why we dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima how colonial peoples have benefited from our rule why look at all those schools and hospitals overgrown with weeds...
    In The Ticket That Exploded it takes the form of heroin death smell:
    It's the old junk gimmick ... to keep your ass in deep freeze — Junk is not blue and it is not green — Sex and pain forms hatching out in paralyzed flesh — and hatching out hungry — so you need more and more of the white stuff to keep your ass in deep freeze — Junk is not blue and it is not green — Junk is White White White — like the colorless no-smell of death from kicking addicts
    From Nova Express:
    Let me tell you about a score of years' dust on the window that afternoon I watched the torn sky bend with the wind . . . white white white as far as the eye can see ahead a blinding flash of white . . . (The cabin reeks of exploded star). . . . Broken sky through my nostrils.
    In The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead he combines the line with the white lies from the song "My Blue Heaven":
    "When evening is nigh” . . . the dark city dying sun naked boy hugging his knees . . . “I hurry to my” . . . music across the golf course a crescent moon cuts the film sky . . . "blue heaven” ... . . "The night that you told me” . . . decent people know ... they are right . . . "those little white lies” . . . White white white as far as the eye can see ahead a blinding flash of white fed up with Godless anarchy and corruption the cabin reeks of exploded stars.
    In The Soft Machine the line becomes about race, in the mouth of the District Supervisor of Trak News Agency. He says, "You can't deny your blood kid — You're white white white — And you can't walk out on Trak — There's just no place to go."
    A version of the District Supervisor’s monologue kicks off the 1963 film Towers Open Fire, a collaboration between Burroughs and director Antony Balch. In a 1984 interview Brion Gysin misremembers the opening of the film in an intriguing way:
    C: In Towers Open Fire, there's that long monologue at the beginning about...
    BG: “White, white, white, as well as the eye can see...”
    Gysin is clearly thinking of Burroughs’ take on "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," something he'd been aware of for decades. Considering the fascination that Burroughs had with what happens on the passage through death it makes sense that the end of the Hemingway story would intrigue him. Harry clearly dies when Hemingway writes, "He could not speak to tell her to make it go away and it crouched now, heavier, so he could not breathe. And then, while they lifted the cot, suddenly it was all right and the weight went from his chest." In the next scene death visits one last time in the form of Compton the pilot, who takes Harry away. The scene, but not the story, ends with these two sentences:
    Then they began to climb and they were going to the East it seemed, and then it darkened and they were in a storm, the rain so thick it seemed like flying through a waterfall, and then they were out and Compie turned his head and grinned and pointed and there, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And then he knew that there was where he was going.
    It turns out that the line that Burroughs quotes so many times is as much of a phantom as Compton. "He was pointing now, white white white as far as the eye can see ahead, the snows of Kilimanjaro" is not the last line of the story — it does not appear in the story at all.
    While it is possible that it is simply a matter of Burroughs misremembering the passage I think that a case can be made for Burroughs choosing to put those words into the pen of Hemingway. A 1970 letter to his son Billy shows Burroughs choosing to attribute a line to Hemingway:
    “Writing is dangerous and few survive it,” as Hemingway said or might have said. I can recommend Hemingway: A Life Story by Carlos Baker. I think its (sic) says a great deal about writing and what a writer is actually doing when he writes. Hemingway quite literally wrote his own death from The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
    A version of the quote that he attributes to Hemingway there shows up in The Western Lands, as Burroughs was never one to let a notion go without trying it out a couple of different ways.
    In a 1983 interview Burroughs comments on how, "...Hemingway sold out for a safari, and let them make a terrible movie out of 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro,' with a happy ending. A book about — a story about — death, with a happy ending!" In one of his lectures he comments:
    All these dumb kids, they don't know what a devil's bargain is. They said, “Well, the story still remains The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” I said, “Yes, the story remains. But that's not the point. The point is what happens to the writer."
    The devil's bargain is the main theme in The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets, a collaboration between Burroughs, director Robert Wilson and Tom Waits. In the libretto Burroughs incorporates the tale of Hemingway allowing this change to his story, and in the production one could hear a recording of Burroughs saying, "He who hang happy ending on story about death, shall likewise take a hangman's rope."
    When discussing Hemingway’s suicide, the end result of this devil’s bargain according to Burroughs, he occasionally chooses to illustrate it by using a favorite passage from the Hemingway short story “A Natural History of The Dead,” one that is a bit over the top in its attempt at black humor.
    In a 1983 interview Burroughs says this:
    Let me see if I can quote it for you. Talking about someone dead in the book, lying in the trenches somewhere: "The hole in his forehead where the bullet went in was about the size of a pencil. The hole in the back of his head where the bullet came out was big enough to put your fist in, if it was a small fist and you wanted to put it there. [laughs] Oh boy... well, I reckon the hole in the back of his head where two barrels of number 6, heavy duck load came out was big enough to put your foot in, even if it was a medium-sized foot and you didn't want it there. No one could have written that but Papa Hemingway. I think his style killed him — and, uh, he ended up blowing his head off.
    By that point Burroughs had been quoting and referring to that line for decades, even before Hemingway’s death. He begins a 1955 letter to Jack Kerouac with, “I am now settled in my own house in the Native Quarter which is so close to Paul Bowles’ house I could lean out the window and spit on his roof if I was a long range spitter and I wanted to spit there.”
    It shows up in a passage from 1971’s The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead:
    The General was still on his feet trying to massa the sneezes when a rifle bullet drilled him between the eyes. He flopped on his face and bounced. In the immortal words of Hemingway “the hole in the back of his head where the bullet came out was big enough to put your fist in if it was a small fist and you wanted to put it there.”
    In a 1973 letter to a woman threatening suicide and proposing marriage Burroughs writes:
    You should stop thinking about suicide and get on with your life and forget an unworkable illusion. I mean suppose as a young writer I had fallen in love with Djuna Barnes, the great Lesbian novelist…Have you read Nightwood?...fallen in love sight unseen and with as little knowledge of her tastes, habits, past and present circumstances as you have of mine. Could that have worked out? Of course not. Homosexuality is an illusion and so is heterosexuality. So maybe I fall in love with Papa Hemingway. Super male writer goes gay at 60? He would have needed that like a hole in the head big enough to put a big fist in if he didn’t want to put it there. All is illusion to be sure but some illusions function and some do not.
    In a 1989 interview Burroughs is showing off some firearms to an interviewer and says, “Now this is a fine weapon. The hole where the bullet enters is about the size of a pencil. The one where it exits is big enough to stick your whole fist into, if you should care to stick your fist into such a place.”
    In a journal entry dated June 29, 1997 Burroughs stages a battle between the “two most atrocious conceits in the English tongue” with “Papa Hemingway — in this corner.” By this late date the quote is remembered as:
    The hole in his forehead where the bullet went in was the size of a pencil at the unsharpened end. The hole in the back of his head where the bullet went out was big enough to put your fist in [it], if it was a small fist, and you wanted to put it in there.
    In more than forty years of quoting the line it had transformed quite a bit. There’s as much Burroughs in it as there is Hemingway. Here’s how the sentence appears in “A Natural History of The Dead”:
    This is where those writers are mistaken who write books called Generals Die in Bed, because this general died in a trench dug in snow, high in the mountains, wearing an Alpine hat with an eagle feather in it and a hole in front you couldn't put your little finger in and a hole in back you could put your fist in, if it were a small fist and you wanted to put it there, and much blood in the snow.
    This “atrocious conceit” is clearly one that he loved. In his essay “Hemingway” Burroughs writes about his own approach to writing dialogue, “If you can look at a character without taking, from inner silence, then your character will talk, and you get some realistic dialogue.” He goes on to write:
    But Hemingway didn't give his characters a chance to talk. He always talked for them, and they all talk Hemingway. Take The Killers; it reads well, a good story, and very carefully assembled. The dialogue sounds good, but how good is it?
    He then goes to present the banter about “the big dinner” from the story, and a comparison with the original story shows that Burroughs is doing it from memory. He’s pretty close, but he’s not exactly right. In this case as well his protestations did not stop him from using the line in his own work.
    From “The Killers”:
    “What do they do here nights?” Al Asked.
    “They eat the dinner,” his friend said. “They all come here and eat the big dinner.”
    From Cities of the Red Night:
    It's an exclusive-type place where everybody goes. What do people do in Tamaghis? They see the Show. They all come here and see the big Show. There's a hanging show every night. The bar is filling up now, because this is Flasher Night.
    Dylan snatches the same Hemingway dialogue and uses it in Chronicles: Volume One:
    Some people were there from the art world, too—people who knew and commented on what was going on in Amsterdam, Paris and Stockholm. One of them, Robyn Whitlaw, the outlaw artist, walked by in a motion like a slow dance. I said to her, “What's happening?” “I'm here to eat the big dinner,” she responded.
    In 1989 a small collection from Burroughs called Tornado Alley was published and it includes his own take on “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” titled “Where He Was Going.” It is a brief tale, just over 1,000 words, and an examination reveals that, unlike his long held habit of recalling Hemingway from memory, he has returned to the original text and is carefully quoting from it. The “white white white” bit is absent. In an introduction to the story on a recording that appears on his 1990 album Dead City Radio Burroughs says, "This story from Tornado Alley, ‘Where He Was Going,’ is, quite frankly, based on ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ by Ernest Hemingway. In fact there are several quotations and ‘Where He Was Going’ is a quotation."
    The title of his story lets the careful reader know that he’s returned specifically to the passage that he had so long ago transfigured into the “white, white, white” line, and is considering it anew.
    While he certainly quotes very deliberately and exactly from the Hemingway story, the writer that Burroughs quotes most from in “Where He Was Going” is himself. Burroughs keeps the tale in the 1930’s, but moves the location to the American Midwest. Bank robbers are holed up in a house and are preparing their escape. Ishmael is hit in a gunfight with the feds and dies on a stretcher. While dying he has a vision of traveling to Mexico City and meeting a young man on Dia De Los Muertos.
    “Where He Was Going” begins with the gangsters plotting their getaway. A similar scene, almost verbatim, appears in his novel The Western Lands. A passage about facing death is reworked from The Western Lands as well.
     From The Western Lands:
    If you face death all the time, for what time you have you are immortal. It was always like this, the sick hollow fear, when he feels as if he is fainting . . . then the rush of courage, the clean, sweet feeling of being born. He read that somewhere, about an Old West shootist and how he felt after a shootout. But the fear can go on and on until you can't stand it, it's going to break you, and that's when the fear breaks — you hope.
    From “Where He Was Going”:
    It’s always like this, he tells himself: the fear, and then a rush of courage and the clean sweet feeling of being born He read that somewhere, in an old western . . . but the fear can go on and on until you can't stand it, it's going to break you, and that's when the fear breaks— you hope.
    “Where He Was Going” also includes, “Ishmael remembers old Doc Benway saying, ‘You face death all the time and for that time you are immortal.’” There are obviously ties in these passages to Burroughs’ writing on the use of the material of others, specifically the “unbluffed, unreadable” eyes remembered from “an old western story in a pulp magazine” presented earlier.
    Ishmael’s death trip to Mexico City takes him through the city of Tamazunchale:
    He must have dozed off in the car. Another shoot-out dream. He knows they have been driving all night, home safe now, coming down into a valley. Warm wind and a smell of water.
    "Thomas and Charlie."
    "Name of this town." Ish remembers Thomas and Charlie. From here you climb ten thousand feet to the pass. Remembers Mexico City and his first grifa cigarette.
    The same scene appears just a few pages into Naked Lunch:
    . . . . Drove all night, came at dawn to a warm misty place, barking dogs and the sound of running water.
    "Thomas and Charlie," I said.
    "That's the name of this town. Sea level. We climb straight up from here ten thousand feet." I took a fix and went to sleep in the back seat.
    The boy that Ishmael encounters in Mexico City has white teeth, red gums, a smell of vanilla and a gardenia behind his ear. This is a stock figure in his writing; boys encountered in The Western Lands, Cities of the Red Night and the introduction to Queer share these same characteristics.
    Beyond the title the first use of Hemingway lines comes in this bit — one that includes another echo of that puff:
    And suddenly it occurred to him that he was going to die. Not "sooner or later" — he knew that of course, they all did — but tonight. It came in a puff, like wind that makes a candle flicker, and sick, hollow fear hit him like a kick in the stomach.
    Burroughs has combined two appearances of death from “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Here’s the first of them from Hemingway:
    Drinking together, with no pain now except the discomfort of lying in the one position, the boys lighting a fire, its shadow jumping on the tents, he could feel the return of acquiescence in this life of pleasant surrender. She was very good to him. He had been cruel and unjust in the afternoon. She was a fine woman, marvellous really. And just then it occurred to him that he was going to die.
    It came with a rush; not as a rush of water nor of wind; but of a sudden, evil-smelling emptiness and the odd thing was that the hyena slipped lightly along the edge of it.
    And the second:
    She looked at him with her well-known, well-loved face from Spur and Town & Country, only a little the worse for drink, only a little the worse for bed, but Town & Country never showed those good breasts and those useful thighs and those lightly small-of-back-caressing hands, and as he looked and saw her well-known pleasant smile, he felt death come again.
    This time there was no rush. It was a puff, as of a wind that makes a candle flicker and the flame go tall.
    A few paragraphs later Burroughs returns to this material, with the hyena becoming a raccoon, “A raccoon crosses the road, its eyes bright green in the headlights, not hurrying, slipping along — and it came with a rush, a sudden, evil-smelling emptiness and the raccoon was slipping lightly along the edge of it…”
    Later on Burroughs plays with the imagery more liberally. In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” Harry’s death trip with Compton in the Puss Moth is prefaced by the landing of the plane:
    It was morning and had been morning for some time and he heard the plane. It showed very tiny and then made a wide circle and the boys ran out and lit the fires, using kerosene, and piled on grass so there were two big smudges at each end of the level place and the morning breeze blew them toward the camp and the plane circled twice more, low this time, and then glided down and levelled off and landed smoothly…
    The fires to help land the plane become fireworks in “Where He Was Going”:
    They stop to watch two pinwheels spinning in opposite directions . . . he remembers the queasy, floating feeling he got watching it, like being in a fast elevator.
    The boy is smiling now and pointing to the black space between the pinwheels as they sputter out and the blackness spreads wide as all the world and then he knew that was where he was going . . . .
    The long repeated “white white white” has become blackness, and Burroughs follows Hemingway’s “…wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And then he knew that there was where he was going” quite closely when compared to the numerous other examples presented earlier.
    Again, at just over 1,000 words the emphasis is on short in this short story from Burroughs, and he chooses to leave a lot out. He’s not interested in the relationship between Harry and his wife Helen, or Harry’s internal struggle over wasting his talent.
    I’m not suggesting that Dylan had considered what Burroughs had done with “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” when he came to work with it, but an examination of how the work of Burroughs appears in Dylan’s work around the time that Chronicles: Volume One was being written shows that Dylan was certainly considering the experimental writing techniques of Burroughs.
    In Dylan’s 2003 film Masked and Anonymous the viewer enters the Midas Judas Building on the way to Uncle Sweetheart’s office. A sign opposite the elevator lists the other tenants, and Dr. Benway has an office that is a floor below Sweetheart’s.
    Later in the film Uncle Sweetheart delivers this:
    Alexander the Great. That’s who I’m talking about. He went out and raised an army, cooked all his enemies in crank case oil, rounded up all the wise citizens and doused them in canned heat, wiped his mouth, looked around, went home, went to bed, and died. Left every nation he plundered and conquered for his enemies to divide. Sure, he could have stayed home and strummed on his guitar, but you never would have heard of him. He never would have been Alexander the Great.
    The passage includes a series of elements lifted from the islam incorporated and the parties of interzone routine from Naked Lunch:
    Robert's brother Paul emerges from retirement in a local nut house and takes over the restaurant to dispense something he calls the “Transcendental Cuisine”... Imperceptibly the quality of the food declines until he is serving literal garbage, the clients being too intimidated by the reputation of Chez Robert to protest.
    The Clear Camel Piss Soup with boiled Earth Worms
    The Filet of Sun-Ripened Sting Ray basted with Eau de Cologne and garnished with nettles
    The After-Birth Supreme de Boeuf cooked in drained crank case oil, served with a piquant sauce of rotten egg yolks and crushed bed bugs
    The Limburger Cheese sugar cured in diabetic urine, doused in Canned Heat Flamboyant...
    So the clients are quietly dying of botulism . . . Then A.J. returns with an entourage of Arab refugees from the Middle East. He takes one mouthful and screams:
    "Garbage God damn it! Cook this wise citizen in his own swill!"
    More material from Naked Lunch shows up in the script. Ella the Fortune Teller, while reading the palm of reporter Tom Friend, states this:
    Your laziness stands in front of you and the life you've dreamed of. You're living in a nation that's dying a slow death. Look at the faces on your money. Slave owners and Indian fighters. They'll soon be replaced by the faces of strangers. Look at your sacred monuments and your tombs of heroes. They're being desecrated and upturned. Everything your nation has stood for. Every commitment, every truth, every ideal, everything of beauty, all these things are being stripped away. You are living in a world where all the jewels, diamonds, pearls, and rubies have been replaced by queer replicas. I see a lot of anger here, and you scoff at things you don't understand.
    Part of what she tells Friend is built from material that appears in the ordinary men and women routine in Naked Lunch:
    "So this elegant faggot comes to New York from Cunt Lick, Texas, and he is the most piss elegant fag of them all. He is taken up by old women of the type batten on young fags, toothless old predators too weak and too slow to run down other prey. Old moth-eaten tigress shit sure turn into a fag eater...So this citizen, being an arty and crafty fag, begins making costume jewelry and jewelry sets. Every rich old gash in Greater New York wants he should do her sets, and he is making money, 21, El Morocco, Stork, but no time for sex, and all the time worrying about his rep…He begins playing the horses, supposed to be something manly about gambling God knows why, and he figures it will build him up to be seen at the track. Not many fags play the horses, and those that play lose more than the others, they are lousy gamblers plunge in a losing streak and hedge when they win...which being the pattern of their lives...Now every child knows there is one law of gambling: winning and losing come in streaks. Plunge when you win, fold when you lose. (I once knew a fag dip into the till -- not the whole two thousand at once on the nose, win or Sing Sing. Not our Gertie...Oh no a deuce at a time...)
     "So he loses and loses and lose some more. One day he is about to put a rock in a set when the obvious occur….'Of course, I'll replace it later.' Famous last words. So all that winter, one after the other, the diamonds, emeralds, pearls, rubies and star sapphires of the haut monde go in hock and replaced by queer replicas...
    Dylan has taken the writing of Burroughs and incorporated it into a divination scene. Burroughs thought that some of his techniques had powers of divination. In a recording titled “Origin And Theory Of The Tape Cut-Ups” that appears on the release Break Through in Grey Room he states, "When you experiment with cut-ups over a period of time you find that some of the cut-ups and rearranged texts seem to refer to future events" and goes on to suggest that, "…when you cut into the present the future leaks out.
    While what both Burroughs and Dylan are doing with “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in “Where He Was Going” and Chronicles: Volume One are not cut-ups it is worth taking a look at how both Dylan and Burroughs both point to the same influence when it comes to this experimental writing technique.
    This exchange appears in a 1966 interview with Burroughs that ran in The Paris Review:
    INTERVIEWER: How did you become interested in the cut-up technique?:
    BURROUGHS: A friend, Brion Gysin, an American poet and painter, who has lived in Europe for thirty years, was, as far as I know, the first to create cut-ups. His cut-up poem, “Minutes to Go,” was broadcast by the BBC and later published in a pamphlet. I was in Paris in the summer of 1960; this was after the publication there of Naked Lunch. I became interested in the possibilities of this technique, and I began experimenting myself. Of course, when you think of it, The Waste Land was the first great cut-up collage, and Tristan Tzara had done a bit along the same lines. Dos Passos used the same idea in “The Camera Eye” sequences in U.S.A. I felt I had been working toward the same goal; thus it was a major revelation to me when I actually saw it being done.
    Dylan shows his appreciation and awareness of what Dos Passos was doing by taking a couple of the newspaper headlines that were incorporated in those sequences in U.S.A. and using them in a passage in Chronicles: Volume One, as I’ve demonstrated in a previous essay.
    I’ve heard criticism from very vocal “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” types who suggest that one should just let the words and music of Bob Dylan flow over you, and only respond emotionally. I say that in Chronicles: Volume One a cigar is something that is used to suggest a different approach—one that requires more active participation.
    In the "Oh Mercy" section the first song that Dylan writes about writing is "Political World." He finishes with these three sentences:
    From the far end of the kitchen a silver beam of moonlight pierced through the leaded panes of the window illuminating the table. The song seemed to hit the wall, and I stopped writing and swayed backwards in the chair, felt like lighting up a fine cigar and climbing into a warm bath. This was the first song I'd written in a while and it looked like a clawish hand had written it.
    He adds, “I put the words in a drawer, couldn't play them anyway, and snapped out of a trance.”
    By doing this Dylan seems to be referencing a classic argument when it comes to approaches to music writing and criticism. He draws attention to what he is doing by surrounding the key sentence with sentences that include bits taken from this passage of Sax Rohmer’s The Yellow Claw:
    A hand, of old ivory hue, a long, yellow, clawish hand, with part of a sinewy forearm, crept in from the black lobby through the study doorway and touched the electric switch!
    The study was plunged in darkness!
    Uttering a sob — a cry of agony and horror that came from her very soul — the woman stood upright and turned to face toward the door, clutching the sheet of paper in one rigid hand.
    Through the leaded panes of the window above the writing-table swept a silvern beam of moonlight.
    Scobie wondered about that ‘“It has to be arranged” line. I see much of Dylan’s book as being arranged. What we find between the two sentences that have the Sax Rohmer bits in that carefully arranged passage is, “The song seemed to hit the wall, and I stopped writing and swayed backwards in the chair, felt like lighting up a fine cigar and climbing into a warm bath.”
    German music critic Eduard Hanslick (1825 – 1904) argued for the active listener, one who listens to music with the intent of discovering the method of composition, over the passive listener, for whom music is merely sound to float in.
    In his 1854 book On the Musically Beautiful Hanslick positions his argument this way:
    Slouched dozing in their chairs, these enthusiasts allow themselves to brood and sway in response to the vibration of tones, instead of contemplating tones attentively. How the music swells louder and louder and dies away, how it jubilates or trembles, they transform into a nondescript state of awareness which they naively consider to be purely intellectual. These people make up the most “appreciative” audience and the one most likely to bring music into disrepute. The aesthetic criterion of intellectual pleasure is lost to them; for all they would know, a fine cigar or a piquant delicacy or a warm bath produces the same effect as a symphony.
    The similarities of the warm bath, fine cigar, the chair and the swaying are the signs that Dylan is again putting into play the “I needed to learn how to telescope things, ideas” notion that he got from Hemingway. Dylan makes his case for the aesthetic criterion of intellectual pleasure though analysis. He is not writing in a trance. He has, “…all the books in the library—everything laying around on all the tables.” To not recognize and explore these things can make you “the one most likely to bring music into disrepute.” That is a heavy burden to put on a reader or listener, but it’s what Dylan does.
    Dylan, through Hemingway, writes, “You might be able to put it all into one paragraph or into one verse of a song if you could get it right.” I’ve shown how Dylan put an entire Hemingway short story into one paragraph. Could Dylan have done this in a song as well? He asks the reader to look. “Love and Theft” is an album of quotations. In Chronicles: Volume One Dylan uses a Hemingway quote that is about Fitzgerald, and Dylan quotes The Great Gatsby in the song “Summer Days.” If you start there and work out you don’t have to go far to find more Hemingway. The verse that comes right before the one with the Gatsby quote is:
    Wedding bells ringin’, the choir is beginning to sing
    Yes, the wedding bells are ringing and the choir is beginning to sing
    What looks good in the day, at night is another thing
    Jake Barnes is talking in that last line. Here’s the final paragraph of the fourth chapter of The Sun Also Rises:
    We kissed again on the stairs and as I called for the cordon the concierge muttered something behind her door. I went back upstairs and from the open window watched Brett walking up the street to the big limousine drawn up to the curb under the arc-light. She got in and it started off. I turned around. On the table was an empty glass and a glass half-full of brandy and soda. I took them both out to the kitchen and poured the half-full glass down the sink. I turned off the gas in the dining-room, kicked off my slippers sitting on the bed, and got into bed. This was Brett, that I had felt like crying about. Then I thought of her walking up the street and stepping into the car, as I had last seen her, and of course in a little while I felt like hell again. It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.
    Wedding bells do ring in The Sun Also Rises, but not for Jake of course. On the fishing trip Bill Gorton needles Jake; here’s part of the exchange:
    As I went downstairs I heard Bill singing, “Irony and Pity. When you're feeling . . .  Oh, Give them Irony and Give them Pity. Oh, give them Irony. When they're feeling . . .  Just a little irony. Just a little pity . . .” He kept on singing until he came downstairs. The tune was: “The Bells are Ringing for Me and my Gal.” I was reading a week-old Spanish paper.
    The irony and pity routine also serves as a reference to Fitzgerald, much like the “special, glamorous race” line from “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” that Dylan incorporated into Chronicles: Volume One.
    In his biography Hemingway Kenneth Schuyler Lynn lays it out cleanly:
    The first of Bill and Jake's comic routines slyly pokes fun at The Great Gatsby by picking up on the words "irony and pity" and riding them hard. "Irony and pity" were Anatole France's touchstones for good writing, and the French-literature-loving Gilbert Seldes had invoked them in his Dial review of Gatsby. Fitzgerald, Seldes proclaimed, now surpassed all the writers of his generation; although he had taken only a tiny section of American life for his province, he had reported on it "with irony and pity and a consuming passion." Fitzgerald proudly showed these comments to Hemingway, who didn't like Seldes in any case because of what he regarded as his Harvard-bred intellectual snobbery and who probably didn't feel too good in addition about the lavishness of Seldes's praise of a rival. In A Moveable Feast he would dismiss the review with the sour remark that it "could not have been better. It could only have been better if Gilbert Seldes had been better." But in The Sun Also Rises he made it the occasion for a vaudeville turn, sung to the tune of "The Bells Are Ringing for Me and My Gal."
    James Plath explores this material in his essay “The Sun Also Rises as a ‘Greater Gatsby’: Isn't It Pretty To Think So?”:
    Although Hemingway's allusion to a lyric is a technique he hadn't used before, it was one which Fitzgerald had recently employed in Gatsby. Hemingway's "coupling" of the Seldes blurb and a wedding-bell song seems indeed a parodic jab at Gatsby and the grand romance contained therein—which is made more evident if one tries actually to sing Bill's "lyric" to a melody that simply won't accommodate it rhythmically.
    Of course Bob Dylan, the guy who accommodated, “She says, ‘You can’t repeat the past.’ I say, ‘You can’t? What do you mean, you can’t? Of course you can.’” to fit the tune of Big Joe Turner’s “Rebecca,” might be up to that task. And Hemingway’s use of lyrics is also seen in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” where Harry quotes Cole Porter’s “Bad For Me” in one of the tiffs over his whiskey-soda. The key point is that not only has Dylan telescoped The Sun Also Rises “into one verse of a song,” he did it in a way that it ties directly to the following verse, where he presents a thumbnail sketch of The Great Gatsby.

    In Chronicles: Volume One Dylan’s concern about the telescoping, via Hemingway, is, “if you could get it right.” Dylan got it right in “Summer Days.” I suggest that in the whiskey sauce passage in Chronicles: Volume One Dylan got it right again. Although an underlying meaning in the passage passed by in a puff for Stephen Scobie, the fact that he was so drawn to what Dylan was doing that he felt compelled to write an essay about it speaks to the power of Dylan’s approach.




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  3. "Lots of places to hide things, you want to hide them bad enough. Ain't like Easter eggs, like Christmas presents. Like life and death." - Larry Brown, “Kubuku Rides (This Is It)”
    For April Fool's Day 2012 I posted an essay that demonstrates how Bob Dylan incorporated an encounter with an artist who exists only as an April Fool's Day joke into his book Chronicles: Volume One. I also presented how this imaginary artist, Robyn Whitlaw, had in turn been reviewed by the imaginary art critic Flora Gruff.

    Just barely in time for April Fool's Day 2013 comes the release of Bob Dylan's new book Revisionist Art: Thirty Works. My eyebrows rose when I saw that the book's description includes, "Art critic B. Clavery provides a history of Revisionist Art, from cave drawings, to Gutenberg, to Duchamp, Picasso, and Warhol. The book also features vivid commentaries on the work, (re)acquainting the reader with such colorful historical figures as the Depression-era politician Cameron Chambers, whose mustache became an icon in the gay underworld, and Gemma Burton, a San Francisco trial attorney who used all of her assets in the courtroom. According to these works, history is not quite what we think it is." The "about the author" section adds, "B. Clavery is the editor of Sluggo: A Magazine of the Transformative Arts."

    A quick check for other work by this B. Clavery turns up nothing beyond the essay for Dylan's book. Sluggo: A Magazine of the Transformative Arts does not appear to exist beyond the reference in the description of the book. It seems that Dylan is using the device of the imaginary art critic. Perhaps he even is the imaginary art critic. The choice of Sluggo as the title of the magazine is an intriguing one. The most obvious Sluggo is the Ernie Bushmiller creation, the pal of Nancy. In his essay "...and Artists and Con Artists..." Kevin McDonough explores Bushmiller's take on fine art: "To Nancy and Sluggo, artists were always hoaxes, goateed fast-buck hucksters pawning child's play off as 'abstract,' 'modern,' and ultimately incomprehensible art. While gullible adults might fall for these flim-flam men and their wares, Nancy and Sluggo were always ready to laugh at the emperor's new clothes."
    In 1988 Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik published a groundbreaking essay on Bushmiller titled "How to Read Nancy." In their conclusion they state, "What you may once have considered simple will reveal itself as a complex fabrication of the highest order." I wouldn't presume to write an essay titled "How to Read Bob Dylan," but I can show that one can take that notion from Newgarden and  Karasik and apply it to the work of Bob Dylan. Exploring the devices and techniques used by Dylan reveals that what critics have dismissed as simple and worthless in Dylan's art are actually elaborate constructions.

    I've established previously that Dylan has read and employed techniques discussed in Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power. Law 3 is "Conceal Your Intentions." Greene breaks this law down into two sections. Part one is "Use decoyed objects of desire and red herrings to throw people off the scent" and part two is "Use smoke screens to disguise your actions."

    Dylan uses material from this section of Greene’s book in Chronicles: Volume One.

    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 212:

    The song was like looking at words in a mirror and checking out the reverse images. It's like you set up a thick smokescreen and then put the real action ten miles away.
    The 48 Laws of Power, p. 27:
    Selassie's way of allaying Balcha's fears — letting him bring his bodyguard to the banquet, giving him top billing there, making him feel in control  — created a thick smoke screen, concealing the real action three miles away.
    One is able to observe Dylan's effective use of both the red herring and the smoke screen by taking a close look at the song "Jolene" from his 2009 album Together Through Life as well as his most recent interview with Rolling Stone.

    "Jolene" is a song that Dylan clearly favors, as he has performed it well over one hundred times. It has not fared so well critically. Here's Sean Wilentz on the song in his book Bob Dylan in America:
    Once more the simplest of the songs can contain layers that approach allusion, but only just. In her 1974 hit “Jolene,” Dolly Parton pleads with a raving beauty, “with flaming locks of auburn hair” and “eyes of emerald green,” begging her not to steal her man. Dylan's “Jolene” does not even attempt to match Parton's, which is one of the great performances in country-and-western music, but it is an interesting counterpart. In Dylan's version, a toss-off steady rocker with a nice guitar hook, Jolene's eyes are brown and Dylan sings as the king to her queen, while he packs a Saturday night special—a plain enough sex song, but lurking in the lyrics and the music are also hints of Robert Johnson's “32-20 Blues,” as well as Victoria Spivey's album recorded in early 1962, Three Kings and the Queen (on which a twenty-year-old Bob Dylan, no king, played harmonica in back of Big Joe Williams).
    Wilentz, the would-be Dylan detective, is oblivious to the actual hints and illustrates, once again, how he fills the role of the tired beat cop who tells onlookers, "Nothing to see here folks, move along."

    Clinton Heylin expresses a particularly dismissive view of "Jolene" in his book Still On The Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan: Vol. 2: 1974-2008:
    For a ditty that could as easily have been called “Baby I Am The King” to invite comparison with Dolly Parton's consummate song of the same name suggests a certain chutzpah on the singer's part. In the past, one would have expected such bravado to generally have been warranted. But this is truly desperate stuff. Line after line of missing links, it is tuneless, hopeless, almost worthless too.
    What is hopeless and almost worthless is his assessment. The red herring has taken him far down the wrong path as well.

    The red herring is Dolly Parton's song of the same name. It is so powerful that Wilentz and Heylin are not able to see past it. Bill Flanagan asked Dylan about Parton's song, resulting in this exchange:
    Flanagan: Any chance your Jolene is the same woman who got Dolly Parton so worked up?
    Dylan: You mean that woman with the flaming locks of auburn hair? 
    Flanagan: Yeah! Who's smile is like a breath of Spring. 

    Dylan: Oh yeah, I remember her. 
    Flanagan: Is it the same one?

    Dylan: It's a different lady.
    In this case Dylan is telling the truth - it is a different lady. The lady that he had in mind has a similar name, and she was the subject of a song that was a bigger pop hit than Parton's "Jolene." The song is "Rolene," a Top 40 hit in 1979 for composer Moon Martin. In this case the cover version by Willy DeVille's band Mink DeVille is the one to consider. A close look at the lyrics to Dylan’s "Jolene" reveals that it is comprised almost entirely of lines from songs found on the Mink DeVille albums Cabretta and Return To Magenta.

    I first wrote about connections between Willy DeVille and Together Through Life back in 2009, before the album was released. At the time I pointed out that the song "This Dream of You" begins with, “How long can I stay in this nowhere café?” and how  this echoes the Doc Pomus/Willy DeVille composition "Just To Walk That Little Girl Home" and its opening line "It's closing time in this nowhere café." Dylan had mentioned Doc Pomus in that Flanagan interview, so it was natural to look at the Doc Pomus catalog.

    Besides the song "Rolene" there are eight other Mink DeVille songs to consider. Dylan used a similar method of construction in the song "Tweeter and the Monkey Man," which is a pastiche of Bruce Springsteen song titles and themes. That one is obvious to even the most casual listener. In "Jolene" Dylan tweaks the formula by making the homage distinctly more difficult to recognize.

    First verse of "Jolene":
    Well you're comin' down High Street, walkin' in the sun
    You make the dead man rise, and holler she's the one
    Jolene, Jolene

    Baby, I am the king and you're the queen
    The connection in that first line is to the David Forman (aka Little Isidore) composition "'A' Train Lady." High Street is mentioned five time in the fade out of the Mink DeVille version: "Following you all the way to High Street/Yes, I followed you to High Street/And I wished you were my baby/All the way, all the way/All the way to High Street/All the way, all the way/All the way to High Street/All the way, all the way/All the way to High Street."

    The second line in "Jolene" is the first of a pair of lines that originate in the song "Cadillac Walk." That song includes, "dead men raise and sigh." "Cadillac Walk" is another song that was written by Moon Martin. In "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" Dylan namechecks "Jersey Girl" - a song written by Tom Waits, but familiar through the version by Springsteen. By having two of his songs referenced one could consider Moon Martin to be the Tom Waits of "Jolene."

    Not only is the repeated "Jolene, Jolene" an echo of "Rolene, Rolene" from the song "Rolene," but there is a distinctive guitar hook in the chorus of the Mink DeVille version that was likely the starting point for the guitar line that is played in the refrain of the Dylan song.

    Second verse of "Jolene":
    Well it's a long old highway, don't ever end
    I've got a Saturday night special, I'm back again
    I'll sleep by your door,
    lay my life on the line
    You probably don't know,
    but I'm gonna make you mine
    The Mink DeVille song "Steady Drivin' Man" includes both "You know that long old highway" and "She's got a Saturday night special."

    The third line is built out of bits from the song "Just Your Friends": "You know that all of the time I've laid my heart on the line" and "I don't know why I want more but I will sleep by your door for the truth." The second part of the couplet is taken from the Mink DeVille recording of "Little Girl" (a cover of the Phil Spector/Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry composition "Little Boy," a hit for the Crystals). DeVille starts his version off with, “Little girl, you probably don't know it."  

    Third verse of "Jolene":
    I keep my hands in my pocket, I'm movin' along
    People think they know, but they're all wrong
    You're something nice, I'm gonna grab my dice
    I can't say I haven't paid the price
    The first line of the third verse is right out of the song "Desperate Days": "Put your hands in your pockets, you keep moving around." With the third line Dylan is back to "Cadillac Walk," reworking the line, "Ain't she something nice/Bones rattle my dice." Dylan rhymes the "dice" line with "I can't say I haven't paid the price," which is from the Mink DeVille song "Soul Twist": "No, I can't say that you haven't paid the price."

    Final verse of "Jolene":
    Well I found out the hard way, I've had my fill
    You can't fight somebody with his back to a hill
    Those big brown eyes, they set off a spark
    When you hold me in your arms things don't look so dark
    Dylan begins the final verse with more from the song "Soul Twist," the first line: "I found out the hard way." In Moon Martin's original recording of "Rolene" he sings about her thighs. Willy DeVille took some liberties and changed that line to be about Rolene's "big brown eyes."

    Dylan finishes the final verse with, "When you hold me in your arms things don't look so dark" and that is straight out of the song "Guardian Angel": "When you hold me in your arms, things don't look so dark no more."

    One of the few lines in "Jolene" that doesn't appear to come from a Mink DeVille recording is, "People think they know, but they're all wrong." One can apply that to Sean Wilentz's notion that "Jolene" is a plain and simple toss-off with "layers that approach allusion, but only just." He couldn't be more wrong, as the song is a complicated construction that is almost entirely allusion. Just because he fails to recognize the allusions he seems to think that they don't exist. What Clinton Heylin sees as, "Line after line of missing links" is anything but. The links to the first seven songs from Mink Deville's Return to Magenta, as well as two of the songs from Cabretta, are right there - if one can dismiss the red herring and get past the smoke screen.

    When considering if there was evidence of Dylan showing any interest in the music of Willy DeVille during the time when the songs on Together Through Life would likely have been written I came across a telling anecdote in a 2011 interview with musician Paul James conducted by Lisa McDonald that ran in smalltowntoronto.com. Beyond his own career Paul James played with Bo Diddley regionally for decades and has shared the stage with Dylan (and Dylan with him) many times, going back to 1986.

    Paul James did a stretch as the touring guitarist for Mink Deville and is featured prominently on the DVD Mink DeVille: Live at Montreux 1982, which was released in April of 2008. James also wrote and recorded a song about his tenure with Mink DeVille, a reggae tune about what you end up doing when your band leader is "kicking the gong around" called "Waiting For Willy."

    In the interview Paul James talks about an encounter he had with Dylan in August of 2008: "I parked my van right in front of Dylan’s bus at Copps Coliseum, like I was told. And then these guys came and took me to my seat. I was then told, 'Right after the encore, we’ll come back and bring you to Bob. He wants to talk to you.' When I was taken to see Bob, the first thing he says to me is, 'Hey, I saw that video where you played with Mink DeVille. Willy is something else.' (Willy was still alive at this point). We talked about Mink DeVille and then Dylan said, 'You think you could play guitar for me?' I said, 'Yea!'"

    On Mink DeVille: Live at Montreux 1982 Willy straps on an acoustic guitar and a harmonica rack for the song "Just Your Friends" and it would be difficult for anyone not to see the impact of Dylan in the performance. The idea of Dylan watching it is compelling, but even more interesting is the notion of Dylan perhaps watching DeVille's performance of the same song on the 2006 DVD Willy DeVille: Live in the Lowlands. As DeVille puts on the harmonica rack he tells the crowd, "To tell you the truth I hate this fucking thing, I really do. I can't stand this thing, it drives me goddamn nuts. But I don't have four hands so there's nothing I can do about it. But right now at these moments when I have to put this on I would like to kill Bob Dylan." 

    The September 27, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone featured a contentious interview with Dylan that, when parsed closely, shows Dylan actually giving hints as to the hidden layers of "Jolene." In the interview Dylan talks about the walking blues and states, "I've been raised on that. The walking blues. 'Walking to New Orleans,' 'Cadillac Walk,' 'Hand Me Down My Walkin' Cane.' It's the only way I know. It comes natural."

    In the midst of venting about "wussies and pussies" who complain about his borrowing, people he calls "evil motherfuckers," Dylan chooses to conceal the real action - unrecognized source material. Obviously Mink Deville's "Cadillac Walk" is right there for the careful reader to consider and possibly track back to "Jolene." In this case I can point out that I had already shown that I was aware of the origins of the song and had demonstrated this through a similar method - in the last paragraph of my 2012 April Fool's Day post I intentionally incorporated lines from the Mink DeVille's song "Soul Twist." I also wrote about the connection in a post that appears in cipher form. I did these things to serve as a marker in the event that Dylan might do anything that could be viewed as tipping his hand as to the origins of "Jolene." Dylan is using the interview as a game, something that I've demonstrated a number of times over the past few years. When encountering such elaborate game play one can choose to play along. 

    Also worth considering are the two other walking songs that Dylan decided to mention. Dylan quotes "Hand Me Down My Walkin' Cane" in "Ain't Talkin'" from Modern Times: "Ain't talkin', just walkin'/Hand me down my walkin' cane." That leaves Fats Domino's "Walking To New Orleans." The song "Soon After Midnight" on Tempest is essentially the ghost of the Bobby Fuller Four song "A New Shade of Blue," but other songs haunt the recording as well. The loping rhythm and the way in which Dylan enunciates the line "A gal named Honey/Took my money" directly calls to mind Domino singing, "You use to be my honey/Till you spent all my money." People were hearing and making this connection before the Rolling Stone interview was published. For instance, in a discussion of "Soon After Midnight" on expectingrain.com someone known as tensteel commented, "I also hear Fats Domino loud and clear, and just a little Ricky Nelson, especially shades of Lonesome Town. As far as Fats, listen to how Bob sings 'muhhhnay,' for money. Totally Domino."

    Dylan has presented three walking songs that play a role in Tempest, Together Through Life and Modern Times - his last three studio albums of new material in reverse chronological order. This pattern of behavior can be demonstrated again and again and again.

    Dylan often will hide things in interviews in such an obscure way that only great attention to detail and rigorous digging will expose them. Occasionally he use the “in plain sight” approach and once in a while he will be quite straightforward.  While discussing quotation with John Elderfield in an interview that appears in The Asia Series catalog Dylan states, "Minstrels did it all the time. Weird takes on Shakespeare plays, stuff like that." That is as blunt and obvious as Dylan gets.

    While looking into how minstrels approached Shakespeare I came across an essay by William J. Maher titled, "Ethiopian Skits and Sketches: Contents and Contexts of Blackface Minstrelsy, 1840- 1890" in the book Inside the Minstrel Mask: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Blackface Minstrelsy. Maher states, "The most frequently parodied Shakespeare plays were Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, and Richard III." He devotes a fair amount of discussion to parodies of Othello, particularly George Griffin's Othello: a Burlesque from 1866. He mentions, "...the comedians viewed a wife's role as subservient to her husband, something Othello makes clear when he tells Brabantio, 'If for my wife — your daughter — you are looking, you'll find her in the kitchen busy cooking.'"

    This passage jumped out at me initially because it was underlined by a previous owner of my copy of the book. I also couldn't help but recognize how similar it is to the first lines of the song "Po' Boy" from "Love and Theft": "Man comes to the door—I say, 'For whom are you looking?' He says, 'Your wife,' I say, 'She's busy in the kitchen cookin'.” Dylan also happens to mention Othello and Desdemona a little later on in the song. The full play, and other Shakespearean parodies, can be found in the book This Grotesque Essence: Plays from the American Minstrel Stage. They are all written in dialect, so reading is slow going, but I think it is essential if one aims to gain a better grasp on some of the roots that Dylan went to while writing “Love and Theft.”

    The radio documentary “Shakespeare in American Life” includes an episode by Richard Paul on the African-American experience with Shakespeare called “Shakespeare In Black and White.” It asks the question “Who ‘owns’ Shakespeare?” and Paul begins his piece by contrasting a straight reading of Othello with actors doing the very same lines from Othello: a Burlesque that Dylan uses in “Love and Theft.”

    This is the second minstrel skit that I've identified in the lyrics of "Love and Theft" and this one I found because Dylan, in his own peculiar way, suggested very specific subject matter to study.

    "Love and Theft" is a particularly rich and dense work, and even more than a decade after its release it still holds plenty that has yet to be considered and discussed. The 20th anniversary edition of Eric Lott’s Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, with a new forward by Greil Marcus, is due in August. I imagine that Dylan might come up there, but I think the extent of Dylan’s use of minstrelsy material is just starting to be discovered.

    In a discussion about quotation in the Rolling Stone interview Dylan throws down a challenge, "And as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who's been reading him lately? And who's pushed him to the forefront? Who's been making you read him? And ask his descendants what they think of the hoopla. And if you think it's so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get."

    The question that prompted this response would have been more appropriate in 2006 than in 2012. I would have liked to have least seen a follow up question that talked about how Dylan peppers his prose in Chronicles: Volume One with hundreds of little lifted items, including bits from over a dozen Hemingway short stories – not to play the “as far as Ernest Hemingway is concerned, we’ve all heard of him” card, but because the process involved in writing this way must be incredibly labor intensive and I would find a discussion of this process interesting.  

    The do-it-yourself approach to using the work of Henry Timrod that Dylan challenged his critics to try was already taken up, years ago, by the combo Bobby Dee and the Folk Process. The band's name is clearly a reference to this passage from a 2006 New York Times article on Dylan's use of Timrod's work: “But some fans are bothered by the ethics of Mr. Dylan’s borrowing ways. 'Bob really is a thieving little swine,' wrote one poster on Dylan Pool), a chat room where Mr. Warmuth posted his findings. 'If it was anyone else we'd be stringing them up by their neck, but no, it’s Bobby Dee, and ‘the folk process.'"

    That article ran on 9/14/2006 and the band's MySpace profile, at
    http://www.myspace.com/bobbydeeandthefolkprocess, shows "Member Since 9/16/2006." In late 2006 The Folk Process posted a recording of a song called "Huck's Tune" before Dylan's song with the same name was released on the soundtrack to the film Lucky You. On their MySpace page the band states, "While we are waiting for the 'Lucky You' version we thought that it would be fun to take a stab at our own 'Huck's Tune.' The lyrics are from the Blind Boy Grunt school of appropriation - see if you can track down some of the places where we nicked them!"

    It doesn't take long for one to discover that the stolen lyrics are comprised almost solely of lines from Timrod poems. I don't know that I'd call the song much of an achievement, but as songwriting exercise in response to the methods of Bob Dylan, one that Dylan would explicitly challenge his critics to attempt years later, it is interesting. To see how far you can get was part of Dylan's challenge. The Folk Process doesn't seem to have made it that far, but they were richly rewarded in irony when their "Huck's Tune" was pulled from consideration in a Battle of the Dylan Cover Bands hosted by DylanRadio.com. Apparently the "The World's First Bob Dylan Radio Station" was not yet ready for "the world's only conceptual Bob Dylan cover band" - at least as far as that competition went, since their "Huck's Tune" is available for request on the station, alongside the actual Bob Dylan catalog.

    I just received my copy of Revisionist Art: Thirty Works in hand and haven’t had the chance to give it more than the most cursory look. In the interview that appears in the catalog for The Asia Series Dylan brings up both camera obscura and methods that one might use when making a painting of the Last Supper. This caused me to wonder if Dylan had been reading and was referring to David Hockney’s 2001 book
    Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters. The use of optical aids, such as camera obscura, is the focus, and methods and processes used in Last Supper scenes by Dieric Bouts and Andrea del Castagno is one of the subjects discussed.

    Hockney states the drive behind his project succinctly: "Like most painters, I imagine, when I look at paintings I am as interested in 'how' it was painted as 'what' it is saying or 'why' it was painted (these questions are, of course, related).” I can relate to that. I am far more interested in discussing the processes that Bob Dylan uses in his work than blathering about how it might speak to me. This focus on process is also an area that deserves greater attention, in that, as demonstrated, the current literature is severely lacking.

    Hockney, camera obscura and the nature of portraiture are mentioned in B. Clavery’s essay for Revisionist Art: Thirty Works, titled “Step Inside the Hurricane.” Clavery tells us, “Revisionist art, at its center, lies not in the events but in the willful manipulation of the response to those events as triggered by the artist."

    If one replaces “Revisionist art” with “April Fool’s Day” in that sentence it reads just as well, if not better. I think that makes the first of April the perfect day to sit down and take a close look at Clavery’s essay, as well as the wild annotations that appear in Revisionist Art: Thirty Works, keeping in mind the possible use of those red herrings and smoke screens as part of that willful manipulation of response.

    Have a happy April Fool's Day.



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  4. "I search for phrases to sing your praises" - Johnny Mercer, "Too Marvelous For Words"

    I wanted to read Jon Friedman's new book Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution, which is essentially a self-help book using the life and career of Bob Dylan as a template, because I was intrigued by one of the chapter titles. His eighth chapter is titled "Marry a Mermaid" and I wanted to see what he was getting at there.

    In the chapter Friedman writes:

    Where others might ponder a certain challenge and carefully weigh the risks and rewards and calculate the probability of setback, Dylan doesn't even consider the possibility of failure. He doesn't take into account that there are boundaries or limitations to attaining success. It's a sign of Dylan being all in and not compromising himself. When we try to analyze Dylan's success, we can see, on one level, that it is more a factor of perspiration than inspiration. He throws himself completely into his various music, art, literary and film projects. He intends to go deep and, in the evocative phrase he invoked in his memoirs, "marry a mermaid." It starts with the notion that he is committing himself 100 percent to everything he does.

    Later in the book Friedman states, "There is another component to this jigsaw puzzle that we call our life, and it is a very big piece. This involves having a personal code of behavior, which will guide you throughout your journey from here to there." He adds, "I point you to Dylan's code as a major reason for his remarkable legacy."

    What I find intriguing about Friedman setting up Bob Dylan up as a Hemingwayesque code hero is that I believe that Dylan may have used the very phrase that Friedman found so evocative as a way to point out the difficulties in trying to live up to such a personal code, that Dylan could essentially be saying, "Don't follow me."  

    Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One is a vast palimpsest, with the words of many other writers coming through the text, hundreds and hundreds of times. When you are aware of what the original source material is you find that the subtext often subverts the surface text or adds another meaning to it that you could not be aware of initially.

    Dylan uses a significant amount of material from Ernest Hemingway in Chronicles: Volume One, particularly from the short stories featuring Nick Adams. Some writers picked up on Dylan's use of Hemingway early on. For instance, Tom Carson, in his 2004 review of Chronicles: Volume One for The New York Times writes about the list of books that Dylan says he read in his early days in New York City and then adds, "While Hemingway isn't on the list, Dylan clearly made up for that omission later on. Feeling confused by things 'too big to see all at once,' he reflects, 'You might be able to put it all into one paragraph or into one verse of a song if you could get it right.' In his battered-veteran phase -- the hell with it, I'm more famous than Papa now -- he borrows a Hemingway mantra outright: 'Long time ago, good; now, no good.'"

    The mantra is from the Nick Adams story "Fathers and Sons." Carson also seems to have picked up on Dylan's echo of this passage from "The Snows of Kilimanjaro": "There wasn't time, of course, although it seemed as though it telescoped so that you might put it all into one paragraph if you could get it right." A close look at Chronicles: Volume One reveals that Dylan borrows from Hemingway outright a startling number of times. To get a better understanding of the Bob Dylan that appears in Chronicles: Volume One it is important to take a look at how he uses the words of Hemingway.   

    In the book Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration Philip Young writes:
    It is pretty clear, then, that Nick Adams has much in common with Ernest Hemingway. This is not to say that he "is" Hemingway. He is, rather, a projection of certain kinds of problems Hemingway was deeply concerned to write about, and write out. Nick is a special kind of mask. But there are masks which do not disguise or conceal very much and some of them, like the theatrical masks of ancient Greece, actually serve to identify character and even to reveal it. These are odd distortions indeed in that they are really clarifications. By selection among the possibilities of personality, and by emphasis of some few of its features, they expose as well as hide, disclose as well as cover. Nick Adams is such a mask, for while he presents to the world a face that is not exactly Hemingway's, he also projects chiefly that one set of problems, revolving around the wound, that is the best aid in our recognition of Hemingway. Thus Nick is a simplification, and to that extent a distortion, of the actual complex personality, but is also a kind of revelation.

    Dylan has taken Hemingway's mask and put it on himself. Howard L. Hannum begins his essay "'Scared sick looking at it': A Reading of Nick Adams in the Published Stories" with "Nick Adams, like Huck Finn, Jay Gatsby, or any other major character in American literature, is entitled to a life of his own, but Nick is seldom allowed such imaginative separation from Ernest Hemingway." Huck Finn and Jay Gatsby both show up in Dylan's recent work and much has been written about that. How Dylan wears the Nick Adams mask, how he separates it from the ties to Hemingway's biography, as well as how he uses it for both distortion and revelation, is also worth exploring.

    Dylan intentionally disguises himself as Nick Adams in many different ways throughout the book. In a previous essay I pointed out how Dylan acts out a scene from "The Killers" with the mysterious artist Robyn Whitlaw. If you take a close look at the criminal record of Sun Pie you'll find that he seems to be, in part, Bugs from "The Battler." I could publish a laundry list of examples of Dylan using Hemingway, as I've previously done to demonstrate Dylan's use of Jack London, but it would distract from the discussion and some people still would not be convinced. I ran my list of Dylan/London comparisons past a guy from The Jack London Society and his response to me included, "It doesn't seem deliberate on Dylan's part, but it does seem possible that he just absorbed some of London's language and it re-emerged here." I find his point of view to be so preposterous that I won't embarrass him by using his name (he'll come around eventually). I suggest that the notion that Dylan could be unaware of his use of Hemingway is equally ridiculous.

    I also suggest that Dylan carefully considered the components of a Hemingway code hero. A key component is a physical wound, and Dylan gives himself one. A section of Chronicles: Volume One begins with Dylan's hand becoming "ungodly injured in a freak accident." In the book Dylan is getting ready to revive his career and art, after being adrift for a decade, by applying some new approaches. The physical wound represents, as in so many Hemingway stories, the struggle to live up to the code. Dylan makes this plain in the following passage:
    There were plenty of days coming when it would all come together. My destiny was shining silver in the sun. Life had lost its toxic effect. I had nothing more to bitch about ... then it hit me.

    He goes on to write about being stopped in his tracks by the injury. He writes, "...something heavy had come against me." Dylan makes it clear that he is considering Nick Adams here. Hemingway's story "Big Two-Hearted River" ends with "There were plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp." For Nick Adams fishing the swamp is "a tragic adventure" that he is not quite willing to take just yet.

    When Dylan writes about his destiny shining silver in the sun he is making another Hemingway fishing reference, pointing out that destiny can be as elusive as a marlin on the line. The passage that he is alluding to initially appeared in the short story "One Trip Across" and was later incorporated into To Have and Have Not:

    He hit him pretty hard a couple of times more, and then the rod bent double and the reel commenced to screech and out he came, boom, in a long straight jump, shining silver in the sun and making a splash like throwing a horse off a cliff.

    Dylan peppers his prose with much more Hemingway in that section, to make it obvious to the careful reader that the parallels are no coincidence. Dylan, in his Nick Adams guise, shows how he struggles to live up to the code, a struggle made manifest in the injury to his hand. The ways in which Nick Adams fails to live up to the code, his weaknesses and how he succumbs to temptation, are what makes the character so rich when compared to, say, Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, who remains steadfast to the code.

    The evocative phrase that gave Jon Friedman his chapter title shows Dylan heaping praise on producer Daniel Lanois when viewed in the surface context. Dylan writes, "One thing about Lanois that I liked is that he didn't want to float on the surface. He didn't even want to swim. He wanted to jump in and go deep. He wanted to marry a mermaid."

    The subtext in that passage is about Nick Adams and his struggles with the code, and Hemingway's use of submergence to represent an avoidance of living up to the code. Dylan is referencing the Hemingway short story "Summer People." In story Nick Adams is spending an evening swimming in a lake with friends, who call him by the nickname "Wemedge." Hemingway notes, "He did not care anything about swimming, only to dive and be underwater." Nick Adams thinks, "It was funny how much fun it was to swim underwater and how little real fun there was in plain swimming."

    After the swim this exchange occurs:

    "What animal would you like to be, Odgar?" Nick said.
    "J. P. Morgan," Odgar said.
    "You're nice, Odgar," Kate said. Nick felt Odgar glow.
    "I'd like to be Wemedge," Kate said.
    "You could always be Mrs. Wemedge," Odgar said.
    "There isn't going to be any Mrs. Wemedge," Nick said.
    He tightened his back muscles. Kate had both her legs stretched out against his back as though she were resting them on a log in front of a fire.
    "Don't be too sure," Odgar said.
    "I'm awful sure," Nick said. "I'm going to marry a mermaid."
    "She'd be Mrs. Wemedge," Kate said.
    "No she wouldn't," Nick said. "I wouldn't let her."
    "How would you stop her?"
    "I'd stop her all right. Just let her try it."
    "Mermaids don't marry," Kate said.
    "That'd be all right with me," Nick said.

    Nick's desire to marry a mermaid is an extension of his desire to stay submerged, to avoid adult responsibility. He goes on to betray Odgar and the code by sleeping with Kate. Hannum explores this theme:

    Nick learned early the defense mechanism of submergence ("he would never die"  [70]). And he used it, after the Boulton incident and after Fossalta, and is using it again after the giant trout. On the threshold of adult life, he has not yet learned that submergence merely shelves problems, without solving them for him. Submergence has kept him in bondage to the past; the swamp would involve Nick in his future.

    Kevin Fahey expands on this theme in his essay "Hero Without a Code: Hemingway's Nick Adams." Ironically, this essay is used as an example of how to properly cite your sources in the book The Bedford Researcher. Of course Dylan wasn't writing a term paper. Fahey writes:

    The repetition of this theme throughout the story suggests that Nick dislikes swimming on the surface because it requires more discipline and endurance than swimming underwater. Underwater, Nick might also feel that he can temporarily "escape society's rules about sexual behavior" (Comley 70), which would require him to face his fear of commitment. Nick is "forever seeking a pristine boyhood paradise free from the responsibility of adult, heterosexual relationships" (Strychacz 67).

    Friedman sets up Bob Dylan as a "self-help guru" and suggests that we should seek to marry a mermaid, because that is a life lesson that Dylan presents. That is a far too easy a reading, and I suggest that it is an incorrect one if you consider how Dylan is drawing upon Hemingway. I don't think that Friedman is doing any harm. In my interactions with Friedman he comes off as a perfectly nice fellow. It turns out that we share an alma mater and we both wrote about music for the college newspaper. And he sure likes the work of Bob Dylan. But I don't look to rock stars for life lessons, and I certainly don't presume to know anything about the life of Bob Dylan. I do think that you can learn much about writing and art by studying the writing and art of Bob Dylan. The Bob Dylan that is presented in Chronicles: Volume One, especially when he is wearing his Nick Adams mask, is complicated and troubled. He struggles. He does not seem to be a character that you would look to for answers.

    Chronicles: Volume One is a very rich work, and proper attention to the study and interpretation of what Dylan does in the book has not been paid. I am confident that this will change over time. I saw that Rolling Stone published a list this week called The 25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time and Chronicles: Volume One is on the top of the list. It belongs there. Their brief blurb includes two short quotes from the book:

    Everybody knew this guy had a way with words. But it's safe to say that nobody expected his autobiography to be this intense. He rambles from one fragment of his life to another, with crazed characters and weird scenes in every chapter. It all hangs together, from his Minnesota boyhood (who knew Dylan started out as such a big wrestling fan?) to the "deserted orchards and dead grass" of his Eighties bottoming-out phase. He evokes his early folk-rogue days in New York, even though he hated being perceived as the voice of a generation: "I was more a cowpuncher than a Pied Piper." So where's that Nobel Prize already?

    My essay "The New Yorker and Bob Dylan the Cowboy Dandy" addresses what Dylan is most likely up to with that second quote. The "deserted orchards and dead grass" is yet another instance of Dylan using Hemingway. The five words that Rolling Stone chose to represent Dylan's way with prose resonate much deeper than they probably realized.

    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 146:

    For the listeners, it must have been like going through deserted orchards and dead grass. My audience or future audience now would never be able to experience the newly plowed fields I was about to enter. There were many reasons for this, reasons for the whiskey to have gone out of the bottle.

    "Fathers and Sons" by Ernest Hemingway:

    His father was with him, suddenly, in deserted orchards and in new-plowed fields, in thickets, on small hills, or when going through dead grass, whenever splitting wood or hauling water, by grist mills, cider mills, and dams and always with open fires.

    "Night Before Battle" by Ernest Hemingway:

    The room was full of smoke and the game looked just as when we had left it except the ham was all gone off the table and the whisky all gone out of the bottle.

    Beyond using lines from Hemingway Dylan also has his characters engage in odd, impressionistic recastings of pivotal scenes from Hemingway's short stories. Poet Stephen Scobie wrote an entire essay on one such passage without realizing the Hemingway connection.

    "There is no code!" a very vocal critic of my writing on Dylan has asserted. This person has also suggested, "I think Warmuth is using his knowledge to push his own ideas." I don't know how to even begin to respond specifically to that second statement, but my general response is to embrace naysayers, not to shun them. I am tickled by the notion that someone would think that I dreamed up a theory and then went about searching for phrases that I could use to support my ideas. It is hard to imagine working that way. But on the subject of there being a code in Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One, there is at least one, clearly: the Hemingway code.



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  5. "Well, I'm a genuine scoopologist, the name is Crow/Sitting up here, watching the show/In this one horse drive-through, forsaken, dried up piece of the world" - Marty Stuart, "The Observations of a Crow"

    What struck me most about the tale of Jonah Lehrer and the fabricated Dylan quotes in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works was the cover-up story. He claimed that had done research at bobdylan.com headquarters, which doesn't exist, and that he had been given access to unreleased Bob Dylan interviews.

    My writing also explores the creativity of Bob Dylan, and I have found myself in the opposite position. I've seen it suggested that I have the kind of access that Lehrer pretended to have. There's a daunting thread on the website expectingrain.com titled "The Work of Scott Warmuth on Dylan's Sources" that includes several hundred comments, including statements such as, "I've often half-wondered if he isn't somehow linked to Dylan's people, like Dylan is trying to get the word out about it himself. After having read most of Mr. Warmuth's works, I'm pretty convinced." and "...he may have access to Dylan's own notes or some other kind of documented way that shows the incorporations to be deliberate."

    This week I wrote, "I am not the inside man" in an email to a writer for The New York Times who wanted to run some facts by me. His reply included, "I won't deny that it crossed my mind."

    The methods of my Black Chamber do not involve access to Dylan's notes or links to Dylan's people. I'm not opposed to shenanigans - my previous post is a cipher after all - but to go down as the Charles Van Doren of Dylan studies would be lame.

    I have no beef with Jonah Lehrer and schadenfreude is not my bag. I very much enjoyed his 2009 article "Magic and the Brain: Teller Reveals the Neuroscience of Illusion" that ran in a puzzle-filled issue of Wired. Lehrer has an open invitation to join my Black Chamber. The only reason that I am mentioning this situation at all is that while the story broke I happened to be writing about another fake Bob Dylan quote and how it could play a role in an almost-invisible thread that runs through the creative works of Dylan, Smokey Robinson and Ben Harper.

    Early in Chronicles: Volume One Dylan writes about delivering a bunch of "pure hokum" to the head of publicity at Columbia Records. When I worked in radio a constant flow of hokum-filled press releases crossed my desk. Ballyhoo is the first order of business in that racket.

    Al Abrams is a master of this suspect genre. He had a plum gig as the head of PR for Motown during the company's salad days. A whopper he told about Dylan still reverberates. Abrams has told the tale a number of times, but he lays it out best in his 2011 book Hype & Soul: Behind the Scenes at Motown: "One morning I received a memo from Berry reminding me that Smokey Robinson is one of our nation's greatest songwriters and I should really do something in a hurry to promote him as such in the media because he wasn't getting all the recognition he really deserved." He continues, "I mentioned it to Al Aronowitz, a music writer who was also Dylan's biographer and very close friend. Al said that he had heard Dylan praise some of Smokey's lyrics as being poetical. I asked Al if he would let me get a quote from Dylan about Smokey. Al asked me what I had in mind and I suggested Smokey Robinson is America's Greatest Living Poet. Al thought about it for a minute and said, 'Why bother even telling Bob? That sounds just like something he'd say anyway. Go ahead and do it. If Bob sees it in print he'll think he said it. He's certainly never going to deny it.'"

    Abrams confesses, "I will admit that I lived in fear every time I heard Dylan was doing a major interview and might say, 'What the fuck? I never said that.'"

    That Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson "America's greatest living poet" has been presented as fact for more than four decades. The quote turns up in quite a large pile of books, some by respected writers. Nelson George mentions it in Where Did Our Love Go?: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound. In Fortunate Son Dave Marsh writes, "When Bob Dylan said that Robinson was America's greatest living poet, he was not talking about rhyme schemes and meter — but he knew what he was talking about." It turns out that it looks like he didn't know.

    Browsing over books, do you locate anything noteworthy? At Goon Talk headquarters I have a shelf devoted to titles that I suspect that Bob Dylan has read and used material from. They are all dog-eared, marked up and full of notes. One book on that shelf includes some words from Smokey Robinson that Dylan snatched, and I wonder if that bogus quote crossed his mind when his magpie instinct struck.

    I've written previously about Dylan's use of material from Gerri Hirshey's Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music. Dylan seems to be quite taken with Hirshey's prose, as he uses bits of it again and again and again. For example, in Chronicles: Volume One, in a paragraph about truth in songs, Dylan writes, "You stitched and pressed and packed and drove, is what you did."

    In Nowhere to Run Hirshey writes this about Gertrude Sanders, a woman who worked for James Brown: "She has been wardrobe mistress since 1959, after brief gigs with the Isley Brothers, Odetta, Etta James and the Shirelles. In the beginning she stitched, pressed, packed, and drove."

    In the book Hirshey interviews Smokey Robinson and he describes for her some of his experiences in the early days of the Miracles:

    Ann Arbor, Flint, and Ypsilanti offered a rugged apprenticeship to a bunch of kids too young to order a beer. "We played everywhere, even the back of hay trucks, places where you had to stand on the bar and sing, in a room the size of this one. In fact, if you'll stand up, I'll show you what it was like."

    He leaps from the sofa and pins me against a wall, so close I can count his eyelashes.

    "See where I am? In your face, right? Can't breathe? Can't see over my shoulder? Now imagine. I'm skinny, don't weigh much more than you at that point, and everyone in the room is a head bigger. So I'm singing into some big dude's chest. And the guy behind him is screaming, 'Wait, I can't hear that little motherfucker sing his little motherfuckin' song.'"

    Young America wasn't supposed to sound like that.

    "Ten minutes later I'm ducking wine bottles and high-heeled shoes that could pierce your heart. Most of those gigs turned out one big riotous fight. We got out by the skin of our teeth. Money? Honey, nobody stuck around for that. Berry had this big old car and he'd have the thing started up outside the door with the windows rolled down. We'd fly in the windows, doors, any which way, and jet off."
    Some of Dylan's best writing in Chronicles: Volume One involves an event that he says inspired the song "Dark Eyes" - and one of Smokey's poetic images from that interview appears in the passage. Dylan marks it with a dash:

    I was staying at the Plaza Hotel on 59th Street and had come back after midnight, went through the lobby and headed upstairs. As I stepped out of the elevator, a call girl was coming towards me in the hallway—pale yellow hair wearing a fox coat—high heeled shoes that could pierce your heart. She had blue circles around her eyes, black eyeliner, dark eyes. She looked like she had been beaten up and was afraid that she'd get beat up again. In her hand, crimson purple wine in a glass. "I'm just dying for a drink," she said as she passed me in the hall. She had a beautifulness, but not for this kind of world. Poor wretch, doomed to walk this hallway for a thousand years.
    Dylan also works a little bit of H.G. Wells into that paragraph, but I'll leave that for another time. It appears that Hirshey's passage about Flint was the flint that sparked Dylan's network of neurons.

    Ben Harper included a song called "Why Must You Always Dress In Black" on his 2009 album White Lies For Dark Times. The third and fourth verses of the song merit inspection.
    If you have to lie do it quickly and as thoroughly as you can
    This morning I woke up slow, feeling like a shell of a man
    "Don't blame me for us" you cried, oh, cut me some slack
    And tell me why must you always dress in black

    She wore high heels, the ones that could pierce your heart
    Just 'cause you'll go down in history doesn't mean you're really all that smart
    Like Robert E. Lee, you're at your best when under attack
    Why must you always dress in black
    One might try to slough off the similarities about the high heels that can pierce your heart as coincidence. It's no coincidence. Ben Harper's white lies include taking a few lines from Chronicles: Volume One and turning them into song lyrics. The line that starts Harper's third verse is the clincher. He has slightly reworked some advice that Dylan gives on page 150 of Chronicles: Volume One: ''If you have to lie, you should do it quickly and as well as you can.''

    What's rich here is that Dylan snatched that bit about lying from Ernest Hemingway's short story "The Denunciation": "You have to lie very often in a war and when you have to lie you should do it quickly and as well as you can." Dylan uses more Hemingway on page 151 of Chronicles: Volume One and throughout the book.

    I imagine that Ben Harper was trying to be Dylanesque through this process. That he unknowingly incorporated the words of Smokey Robinson and Ernest Hemingway into his lyrics via this method makes "Why Must You Always Dress In Black" wildly successful to my mind. Harper's mention of Robert E. Lee is the icing on the cake, considering Dylan's fascination with The Civil War. Bravo!

    Bob Dylan's new album Tempest comes out on the second Tuesday of September, and many of Dylan's fans are focused on that upcoming day. I look forward to hearing Dylan's new album too, but September 2 is the date that has been on my mind, because that evening Ben Harper will open for Bob Dylan in Bethel, NY. It probably won't happen, but I imagine them getting together for some shop talk about how creativity works.


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  6. 2

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  7. Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him – "Visions Of Johanna"

    With the approach of April Fool's Day I've found myself drawn to a passage that appears in the LIFE special edition on Bob Dylan, Forever Young: 50 Years Of Song, which will be continue to be available on newsstands for the next few months. The magazine devotes just a scant few pages to the last twenty-five years of Dylan's career, including this on Dylan's Chronicles Volume One and the critics: "They had figured if Dylan ever finished a memoir, as it was rumored that he was trying to do, it would be goofy, evasive or cryptic in the extreme. And then came this: a finely written, thoroughly engaging reminiscence with a good deal of insight and just enough candor to satisfy any reader."
    Chronicles: Volume One is goofy, evasive and cryptic in the extreme, as I've demonstrated again and again. To suggest that it isn't, and that it is loaded with candor, is preposterous at this point. The editors at LIFE missed a series of opportunities to blow their own horn regarding Dylan's use of their magazine in his work; much like the missed opportunities that the editors at Time made last year on the occasion of Dylan's 70th birthday.
    That they failed to mention that Dylan created an eight foot tall painting of a 1966 LIFE magazine cover with added cryptic text is a gross omission. Including a photo of that painting would have been the perfect final question mark to wrap up their overview of Dylan’s career.

    One could also argue that a mention of how the cover design of Dylan's 2001 album "Love and Theft" is based the iconic imagery of LIFE could have been worked into their tribute. I suggested this connection in the form of a photo collage that appeared with my post "Deciphering The Asia Series: Dylan and The Pied Piper of Tucson" last year. There's more to that puzzle, but I'm not quite there yet.
    One connection that I wouldn't anticipate that the editors at LIFE would be hip to is how Dylan tied in April Fool's Day and some artwork that appeared in an imaginary issue of LIFE in a evasive and cryptic passage in Chronicles: Volume One. Early in the book Dylan is new to New York and is attending a bon voyage party for Cisco Houston that is being hosted by Camilla Adams.
    Cisco brought all kinds of people together. There were union guys there—ex-union guys, labor organizers. Recently, there'd been some accounts in the national news of an AFL-CIO executive council meeting that had been held in Puerto Rico and it was pretty funny. It had been a weeklong affair, and the union bosses were photographed drinking mammoth rum drinks, visiting casinos and nightclubs—hanging around at hotel pools in flowing bathrobes, swimming the surf, wearing Hollywood-ish sunglasses—doing handstands on the diving board. It looked pretty decadent. They were supposedly there to discuss the march on Washington to dramatize the unemployment problem. Evidentially they didn't know they were being photographed.
    These guys at Camilla's place weren't like that, though, they looked more like tugboat captains or baggy-pantsed outfielders or roustabouts. Mack Mackenzie had been an organizer on the Brooklyn waterfront. I met him and his wife, Eve, who was an ex-Martha Graham dancer. They lived on 28th Street. Later on, I'd be their houseguest, too ... sleep on their living room couch. Some people were there from the art world, too—people who knew and commented on what was going on in Amsterdam, Paris and Stockholm. One of them, Robyn Whitlaw, the outlaw artist, walked by in a motion like a slow dance. I said to her, “What's happening?” “I'm here to eat the big dinner,” she responded. Years later Whitlaw would be arrested for breaking and entering and stealing. Her defense was that she was an artist and that the act was performance art and, incredulously, the charges against her were dropped.
    The April Fool's day joke is there, you just can't see it yet. To illuminate the joke it helps to establish what comes before it. Dylan's description of the AFL-CIO meeting is built out of elements from an item titled "National Affairs: Duress in the Sun" that appeared in the March 2, 1959 issue of Time magazine. If you dig up the article you'll find "mammoth rum drinks" and "Hollywoodish sunglasses" and "handstands on the high board" and just about all the rest of it. The wonderfully odd "evidentially" does seem to be Dylan's. This is the same issue of Time with the cover story on Harry Belafonte that Dylan took the scissors and paste to when constructing his section on Belafonte in Chronicles: Volume One, as I pointed out in my post "Bob Dylan and the Matter of TIME" last year.

    The second paragraph begins with a pinch from Pynchon, a couple of elements from a long sentence that appears on page 586 of Gravity's Rainbow (Dylan also uses some Pynchon a few pages earlier).
    All the baggy-pants outfielders, doughboys in khaki, cancan girls now sedate, bathing beauties even more so, cowboys and cigar-store Indians, google-eyed Negroes, apple-cart urchins, lounge lizards and movie queens, cardsharps, clowns, crosseyed lamppost drunks, flying aces, motorboat captains, white hunters on safari and Negroid apes, fat men, chefs in chef's hats, Jewish usurers, XXX jug-clutching hillbillies, comicbook cats dogs and mice, prizefighters and mountaineers, radio stars, midgets, ten-in-one freaks, railroad hobos, marathon dancers, swing bands, high society partygoers, racehorses and jockeys, toddancers, Indianapolis drivers, sailors ashore and wahines in hula skirts, sinewed Olympic runners, tycoons holding big round bags with dollar signs, all join in on a second grand chorus of the song, all the boards of the pinball machines flashing on and off primary colors with a touch of acid to them, flippers flipping, bells ringing, nickels pouring out of the coinboxes of the more enthusiastic, each sound and move exactly in its place in the complex ensemble.
    In my post "Bob Dylan One, Two and Three: Mingus,Hemingway and Blavatsky" I pointed out that when Dylan interacts with artist Robyn Whitlaw it includes one of the many, many times that he takes material from Ernest Hemingway, in that case it was the use of a line from the short story "The Killers" - one of a number of times he refers to that particular story.
    "The Killers":
    'What do they do here nights?' Al asked.
    'They eat the dinner," his friend said. 'They all come here and eat the big dinner.'
    Robyn Whitlaw and the use of the word “incredulously” are the keys here. Dylan’s odd word choice drew attention in early reviews of the book. Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "It is naive and direct; it is not cryptic and it is not smug. The flaws in the book are another guarantee of authenticity. Dylan misuses words -- 'incredulously' for 'incredibly,' for instance..." Dylan is not misusing the word – he is using it cryptically.

    Robert P. Inverarity, in a review that you can find on amazon.com, commented, "I know he missed at least one deadline with the manuscript and probably more, and so publication was likely something of a rush-job, but he has a tendency to use words whose meanings elude him ('incredulously' instead of 'incredibly' -- facts don't tend to be credulous), and a sharp set of eyes should have caught them in a once-over." I suggest that Dylan has shown himself to be pretty good with words, and that he knew that the events that he was referring to were anything but facts.

    The best writing on Robyn Whitlaw is an essay by Ralph Rugoff called "The Illuminating Disappearance of Robyn Whitlaw" that originally ran in LA Weekly in April 1994. The essay later appeared in his 1995 book Circus Americanus. Rugoff lays out Whitlaw's artistic vision and her struggles from the late 60's to the mid 80's. It is an intriguing tale, full of wonderful comic turns. Rugoff's description of the arrest to which Dylan refers is particularly interesting.
    In 1984, against the backdrop of appropriation art's tremendous success, she was arrested for breaking and entering the house of a New York dealer who represented many of the leading appropriationists. During a pre-trial hearing Whitlaw maintained that if theft could be art - at least in the hands of appropriation artists - then her action, and those of thousands of other thieves, should likewise be judged by aesthetic, rather than penal, codes. Worried about negative publicity, the dealer dropped charges.
    Rugoff claims that earlier in her career Whitlaw, "...scored a coup when one of her empty placards turned up in a 1972 Life magazine picture of an SDS rally." He mentions that Whitlaw's birthday is April 1, 1940 and points out that the only review that Whitlaw ever received in a mainstream publication was a mention in Artnews by critic Flora Gruff. Gruff gets a credit for a photo that accompanies another essay in Circus Americanus.

    I'm familiar enough with the writing of Vivian Darkbloom to recognize that if you mix the letters that make up "Ralph Rugoff" you can create "Flora Gruff" - but you are left with that pesky extra "h". That liability becomes an asset when you see that Rugoff writes of a possible late work by Whitlaw, "a 45 record titled '$1.29 Happy Birthday,' released on April 1, 1986, by an unknown named Byron Lawwit (an anagram for Robyn W(h)itlaw)." Rugoff has crafted a finely detailed essay, but its contents are entirely faux. There are more puns and fun to find there.
    Rugoff continued to muddy the waters by including mentions of Whitlaw in a couple of items that ran in Frieze magazine. For instance, an item from 1998 includes, "David Hammons’ name would have to be near the top of any census of this small tribe: over the past couple of years, he has shown work in a Harlem barbershop, an African crafts store, and conducted unannounced performances on the Lower East Side, while eschewing a major gallery show in his home town of New York. Yet his fugitive exhibition strategy is only a shadow to the 70s art gestures of Robyn Whitlaw, a California-based Conceptual artist who made a career out of playing cat-and-mouse with the local press." In an article from 2000 Rugoff writes, "Yet by 1969, invisible art was showing up all over the place. Artist Tom Marioni curated ‘Invisible Painting and Sculpture’ at the Richmond Art Center in California, for example, which featured a group of artists including Bruce Connor, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Robyn Whitlaw."
    Whitlaw features prominently in a curious essay filled with mad pranks and merry jests titled "A Productive Irritant?: Parasitical Inhabitations in Contemporary Art" that ran in the Fall 2011 issue of Fillip, an art magazine out of Canada. The authors lay it on thick, and, regarding awareness, I'll go with deadpan over clueless.
    Robyn Whitlaw used her relative invisibility as a black woman to traverse and hide behind the noise of culture and politics through her In-Visibility Project (1973–78). During this time, Whitlaw exaggerated her own professional obscurity by sending simple invitations for a number of her own secret exhibitions after they had closed. Whereas in the 1970s many conceptual artists were using the exhibition invitation as a site for both their work and enhanced promotion, Whitlaw questioned the “publicness” of publicity and the self-aggrandizement of artists by distorting both temporality and the art establishment’s customary use of advertising procedures. A comment on the systemic neglect of non-white and women artists, Whitlaw’s project was based on her concept of the “secret artist” (an incorporation of secret agent behaviour and Watergate-era deception and secrecy). Realizing the role invisibility played in the manipulation of power, she used clandestine strategies to invade zones from which she was prohibited and revealed how such prohibitions were generated ideologically and reproduced. Using a system of authentication to certify the existence of her work and its pre-emptive dismissal, her project’s power lies in its absurdity, existing outside the market system’s logic and expectations.
    This essay touches on Chronicles: Volume One and Dylan’s encounter with Whitlaw at the party, noting that, "Extracting surplus from the host and exploiting the hospitality on offer, Whitaw was at the dinner not only to procure sustenance parasitically, but also to interrupt the structure of affairs where manners govern behaviour, reversing the hierarchy of inviter/invited by making visible an unsaid and corrupt social contract." Their focus is little off; the attention on the parasitic appropriation needs to be on the fact that the big dinner that Dylan has Whitlaw eat is Hemingway's dinner.

    The footnotes show that their only source for information on Whitlaw's art (indeed the only source one could have) is Rugoff's essay. They include almost every item on Whitlaw's work that Rugoff wrote about, but fail to mention that Rugoff drops the term "April Fool's Day" twice in his essay, the final time in the very last sentence of his piece. It is a convenient omission. That they could effectively parrot the story of an artist that only exists conceptually in such a convincing way, hip to the jive or not, speaks to the power of Rugoff's writing. The tone in his essay is dead-on. Publisher's Weekly didn't let on if they were hip or not, but did remark in a review of Circus Americanus that, "One of the strongest essays, though, is a relatively quiet homage to the conceptual artist Robyn Whitlaw, whose In-visibility Project (1973-1978) preceded her own enigmatic disappearance."
    Bob Dylan had himself interact with a thieving artist who exists only as a vapor in April Fool's Day joke while surrounded by his own brazen thefts - and received high praise for his candor. I believe that Dylan wants more from his critics and his audience; that he wants his methods to be discussed and to be challenged. Before this can happen what Dylan is doing in his recent work needs to be recognized. Dylan, in his own peculiar way, is doing his part to try and trigger this recognition.
    Today wit-cracker Ralph Rugoff is Director of the Hayward Gallery in London. Dylan used his interaction with a person in the same field to plant a clue that could lead the alert reader to discover his April Fool's Day celebration in Chronicles: Volume One. Recently Dylan did an interview with John Elderfield, Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art. It appears in the catalog for the group of Dylan's paintings titled The Asia Series. Three essays I posted last year on The Asia Series interview laid out just some of what Dylan had hidden and encrypted.
    In the Elderfield interview Dylan comments, "I think miniature golf courses are great art forms." It is a statement that cries for attention. I read it as a coded message meant to lead you to the vicinity of the phantom Robyn Whitlaw. Circus Americanus includes Rugoff's essay "Courses in Seduction" where he writes, "Architect Charles Moore once called miniature golf 'one of Southern California's true art forms.'" If you can read the signs you'll find that Dylan will often point you in a general direction, but you'll have to do the rest of the leg work yourself. If you want sugar for sugar you need to bring more than weak tea to the table.
    A few months back I got into an online conversation with spy novelist Jeremy Duns regarding Dylan's secret agent behavior. Duns was recently burned by admitted plagiarist Quentin Rowan, and those wounds appear to still be fresh.
    When discussing what Dylan does in Chronicles: Volume One Duns commented, "I guess I'm wondering why you would plant clues revealing that you're an extensive plagiarist." He added, "It's the kind of thing a clever plagiarist would do as insurance for if they got caught, I think."
    I think that there is more to it than that. Dylan has operated without a net for so long that I doubt that he would even consider such an artistic insurance policy. I partly see it as Dylan being a mole within his own counter-intelligence operation.
    "Can theft be art?" is the question that Dylan flaunts here. He is an emperor who has woven his own new clothes and was always aware of them. He stands naked and eggs his audience on, presenting his snazzy new "candor" threads.
    There are a slew of other puzzles, games and cryptic messages that Dylan has built into his recent work. Thrill-seekers can find leading statements I've made regarding a few of them (without spilling all of the beans) on my Twitter account. As I became more familiar with Dylan's methods I started including in my own writing similar clues and cues that reference some of Dylan's still-hidden secrets, things that only Bob Dylan, or someone as intimately familiar with some of the hidden aspects of Dylan's recent work as I am, would recognize. Maybe I don't have the details right, but even on the first of April I wouldn't be fool enough to comment further on any perceived outcomes of that gambit, so I'll just keep standing here holding my poker face. Have a happy April Fool's Day.

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  8. I noticed Austin Kleon, author of the forthcoming book Steal Like an Artist, recently tweeted about my 2010 post "The Strange Case of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell & Michael Stipe," which regards allegations of plagiarism directed at Dylan by Mitchell. He suggests, "...maybe Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, two friends and peer songwriters, give us two models of the artist, or at least two ends of a spectrum: the artist who gleefully thieves and borrows influence and the artist who tries to avoid thievery at all all costs in the quest for personal authenticity."

    Kleon presents a lot of good ideas on art and theft. I particularly like, "The secret: do good work and put it where people can see it." That is a rule that I can abide by. My post also turned up on jonimitchell.com with the disclaimer "Copyrighted material on this website is used in accordance with 'Fair Use', for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of the copyright owner(s)." I'm all for fair use.

    Most of the responses to Joni Mitchell's comments that I read were fairly ugly in nature, but one email I received did stand out, as it was not the typical knee-jerk reaction. A friend commented, "I am now of the opinion that she is in on all of these veiled devices & like some kind of earthly Athena or even more appropriately, like Saraswati, using radical speech to awaken the lethargic population." I dig his sunny disposition; I think that Mitchell just might have been having a bad day. Maybe it was the Mingus.

    The exploration into the range and extent of how Bob Dylan uses material from other sources in his recent work has just barely begun. There is a richness that has not been properly appreciated. My essay in the Summer 2010 issue of New Haven Review, a publication that aims to "resuscitate the art of the book review,” demonstrates, among other things, how Dylan used a step-by-step guide on how to be a charlatan that appears in Robert Greene's bestseller The 48 Laws of Power to construct a section of his memoir Chronicles: Volume One.

    The January/February 2012 issue of American Songwriter features the cover story "The Reawakening of Bob Dylan" by Stephen Deusner and I suggest that parts of it seem informed by my essay, especially the passages regarding Bono and the birthplace of America. Deusner is clumsy, for instance, he writes, “But 2001’s 'Love and Theft' and 2006’s Modern Times further refine Dylan’s modular approach to songwriting and borrow phrases and occasionally entire lines from a wide range of sources: an obscure Civil War poet, a contemporary business best-seller, a largely forgotten jump-blues number." I have to assume that the "contemporary business best-seller" that he refers has got to be The 48 Laws of Power. While Dylan does use material from Greene's book numerous times in Chronicles: Volume One he did not use it as source material for song lyrics. Deusner and his editors are not paying attention and I prefer people who don’t plunder so poorly.

    One element that I mentioned in passing in my New Haven Review essay is Dylan's use of material from the writing of composer and musician Charles Mingus. If I had known at the time that Joni Mitchell had such strong views regarding Dylan I might have expanded upon it more, in that both Dylan and Mitchell have used material from the same Mingus work, albeit in very different ways.

    Joni Mitchell's 1979 collaboration with Charles Mingus, the album titled Mingus, includes the song "God Must Be A Boogie Man." Mitchell constructed the lyrics of the song out of material from the opening pages of Mingus' 1971 autobiography Beneath The Underdog. The book begins with Mingus in the middle of a conversation with his psychologist:
    'In other words I am three. One man stands forever in the middle, unconcerned, unmoved, watching, waiting to be allowed to express what he sees to the other two. The second man is like a frightened animal that attacks for fear of being attacked. Then there's an over-loving gentle person who lets people into the uttermost sacred temple of his being and he'll take insults and be trusting and sign contracts without reading them and get talked down to working cheap or for nothing, and when he realizes what's been done to him he feels like killing and destroying everything around him including himself for being so stupid. But he can't - he goes back inside himself.'
    'Which one is real?'
    'They're all real.'
    ''The man who watches and waits, the man who attacks because he's afraid, and the man who wants to trust and love but retreats each time he finds himself betrayed. Mingus One, Two and Three. Which is the image you want the world to see?'
    That opening, with those questions of identity, sets the tenor for the entire book. Mingus lets you know that even though many of the tales that he is about to tell are apocryphal, full of intentional button-pushing and wild braggadocio, at their core they are all real, in regards to what they reveal about the man and his many sides. It case one didn't catch that Mingus was tipping you off to this approach the publisher hammers the point home by including, "Some names in this work have been changed and some of the characters and incidents are fictitious."

    Bob Dylan read the opening paragraphs from Beneath The Underdog before playing Mingus' "Eat That Chicken" on an episode of his radio show Theme Time Radio Hour. He called the book "riveting reading." A close look at how Dylan opens Chronicles: Volume One reveals him doing some literary jamming with Mingus. Dylan essentially tells you that some of the characters and incidents in his book are fictitious as well, that we are dealing with Dylan One, Two and Three, by his use of material from Mingus' book on the first page of his own book.

    Chronicles: Volume One begins with this passage:
    LOU LEVY, top man of Leeds Music Publishing company, took me up in a taxi to the Pythian Temple on West 70th Street to show me the pocket sized recording studio where Bill Haley and His Comets had recorded ‘Rock Around the Clock’ — then down to Jack Dempsey's restaurant on 58th and Broadway, where we sat down in a red leather upholstered booth facing the front window.
    Lou introduced me to Jack Dempsey, the great boxer. Jack shook his fist at me.
    ‘You look too light for a heavyweight kid, you'll have to put on a few pounds. You're gonna have to dress a little finer, look a little sharper-not that you'll need much in the way of clothes when you're in the ring--don't be afraid of hitting somebody too hard.’
    It is nearly invisible, but what Dylan seems to be doing here is asking the reader to consider his book in the same manner that one would consider Mingus' book. Jack Dempsey is actually Charles Mingus in disguise. To use material from the first page of Mingus' book on the first page of his own book would have been too obvious, so Dylan appears to have delved a bit deeper. Mingus' book exists in a couple of different editions and they are paginated in different ways. In one of them the following passage from chapter 17 appears on facing pages. In this section of the book Mingus, trying on his pimp persona, practices being intentionally cruel to a woman. The passage begins with Cindy responding to Mingus.

    Beneath The Underdog, pp. 104-105:
    'Here, you chilly bastard. You got a pocket-sized air conditioner stuck up your butt. Take it, it's money.'
    'This hundred don't impress me none too much. They print fives and thousands too. . . That's better, bitch. Ha! I'll be back.'
    'You'd be back if I didn't have a dime. Wouldn't you?'
    'That's right, baby. Because you're wonderful. A beautiful, lady-style woman.'

    'Hey, Timothy, did you say this bitch was rich?'
    'She is, man, but she's tired of having cats take her bread and cut out.'
    'She gave me a hundred when I sounded about smokes. Then she flashed this five-C note when I told her I wasn't impressed.'
    'Let me see it, Ming. . . . Yeah, it's good. Keep it. Keep it all, and think about bigger ones to come. Don't look around, she just held up a fistful and gave me the wink. I'll tell her you're waiting outside in her car. But we gotta get back on the stand in about ten minutes, c.p. time. Love her up a little. Take her purse and take every penny for flashin' like that.'
    'Take everything? What if she needs gas or something?'
    'Man, don't go for that schitt. You can bet she's got a few bills in her stocking or up her ass. Take it all. You can strip a woman buck naked, take her belongings and lock her in the room, and when you come back she'll be wrapped in ermine and the walls all lined gold.'
    'Okay, send her on out, Timothy. But what I got here is enough. I feel self-conscious. I ain't got that cold act down yet'
    'You will. Don't forget the stocking top.'
    'Later, Timmy.'

    This bitch talking about she ain't got no money? Big white convertible, white top, white sidewall tires - damn! - white leather upholstery! White sable coat, white satin shoes, that platinum hair — a pure-dee white woman — except for those blue veins and green eyes. I definitely got me a white woman. Schitt! Where is that bitch?
    'Timmy said you wanted me.'
    'That's right, baby. Get in. Crazy car.'
    'Uh huh, and you can't have it.'
    'I wouldn't want it. Too light for a heavyweight like Mingus. Next I'm going Lincoln Continental. On my own.'
    'Are you really, you big, sweet bastard!'
    'You crazy white bitch! Yeah! Love me!'
    It appears that Dylan has used three elements from this passage in the beginning of his own book - "pocket sized," the leather upholstery and the part about being "too light for a heavyweight." Dylan flips the meaning of “too light for a heavyweight” and may be playing with the notion that while he might not look like a heavyweight, he actually is – just not in the ring.

    Dylan employs this method of phrases lifted from other works hundreds of times throughout Chronicles: Volume One, including very similar instances of creating dialogue out of passages from another jazzbo autobiography, Mezz Mezzrow's Really The Blues. By using the material from Beneath The Underdog in the very first sentence of his memoir it seems that he might be letting the careful reader know that while many of the tales he is about to tell are lifted directly from other writers that essentially they are all real as well, just like tales Mingus told.

    In his book Mingus writes about how when he was a young boy he would bring pieces of broken pottery to Simon Rodia, who was building the Watts Towers at the time, essentially casting Rodia as a mirror image of himself. As I mentioned above, Mingus' book famously begins with the sentence, "In other words, I am three." The portion of the book regarding Rodia and the Watts Towers begins with, "At that time in Watts there was an Italian man, named Simon Rodia - though some people said his name was Sabatino Rodella, and his neighbors called him Sam." Three names - in other words, Rodia is three as well.

    Mingus recognized the similarities in the ways that they each approached assemblage and structured improvisation. The Watts Towers are jazz and indeed have a little bit of Mingus in them. Dylan paints himself as Mingus through assemblage; he is therefore incorporating a little bit of Rodia by default. In an odd twist Dylan and Rodia appear side by side in one of the most iconic pop assemblages of the 20th century - the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

    Robert Duncan's poem "Nel Mezzo Del Cammin Di Nostra Vita" celebrates the Watts Towers, and considering Duncan's "grand collage" concept of poetry it is easy to see why. Approaching Chronicles: Volume One with Duncan in mind can be useful. In her essay “Robert Duncan and the Question of Law: Ernst Kantorowicz and the Poet's Two Bodies” Graça Capinha suggests that Duncan, "...works toward a language capable of dealing with complexity and with multiple and superimposed layers of meaning — the Blakean struggle of contraries." and adds that, "The poet used the jigsaw puzzle and the mobile as metaphors to define his project of the grand collage. He saw his poetry as an act of participation in a major grand collage of all the possible wisdoms, of all the possible knowledges within languages, within societies, within galaxies, within the universe — in motion."

    Duncan, like alchemist Harry Smith, was raised by Theosophists and he had an interesting take on the major works of Helena Blavatsky. It is a viewpoint that is worth exploring, in that Dylan uses passages from Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled in Chronicles: Volume One. Here are some examples of how Dylan used her work.

    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 219:
    Somebody different was bound to come along sooner or later who would know that world, been born and raised with it ... be all of it and more. Someone with a chopped topped head and a power in the community. He'd be able to balance himself on one leg on a tightrope that stretched across the universe and you'd know him when he came-there'd be only one like him. The audience would go that way, and I couldn't blame them.
    Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vol II - Theology by Helena Blavatsky, p. 3:
    Since the day when modern science gave what may be considered the death-blow to dogmatic theology by assuming the ground that religion was full of mystery, and mystery is unscientific, the mental state of the educated class has presented a curious aspect. Society seems from that time to have been ever balancing itself upon one leg on an unseen tight-rope stretched from our visible universe into the invisible one; uncertain whether the end hooked on faith in the latter might not suddenly break and hurl it into final annihilation.
    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 220:
    You live with what life deals you. We have to make things fit. The voice on the record was never going to be the voice of the martyred man of constant sorrow, and I think in the beginning, Danny had to come to terms with that, and when he gave that notion up, that's when things started to work.
    Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vol II - Theology by Helena Blavatsky, pp. 8-9:
    When dying on the cross, the martyred Man of Sorrows forgave his enemies. His last words were a prayer in their behalf. He taught his disciples to curse not, but to bless, even their foes. But the heirs of St. Peter, the self-constituted representatives on earth of that same meek Jesus, unhesitatingly curse whoever resists their despotic will.
    Note that Dylan plays with “Man of Constant Sorrow,” a song he recorded on his first album, in his reworking of the material from Blavatsky, an interesting touch.

    An important thing to grasp here is that both Chronicles: Volume One and Isis Unveiled are elaborate works of collage, incorporating lots of uncredited material from the works of others. The book A Modern Priestess of Isis by Vsevolod Sergyeevich Solovyoff, from 1895, includes an interesting appendix titled "The Sources of Madame Blavatsky's Writings" by William Emmette Coleman. Here are the first two paragraphs:
    During the past three years I have made a more or less exhaustive analysis of the contents of the writings of Madame H. P. Blavatsky; and I have traced the sources whence she derived - and mostly without credit being given - nearly the whole of their subject-matter. The presentation, in detail, of the evidences of this derivation would constitute a volume; but the limitations of this paper will admit only of a brief summary of the results attained by my analysis of these writings. The detailed proofs and evidence of every assertion herein are now partly in print and partly in manuscript; and they will be embodied in full in a work I am preparing for publication, - an exposé of theosophy as a whole. So far as pertains to Isis Unveiled, Madame Blavatsky’s first work, the proofs of its wholesale plagiarisms have been in print two years, and no attempt has been made to deny or discredit any of the data therein contained. In that portion of my work which is already in print, as well as that as yet in manuscript, many parallel passages are given from the two sets of writings, - the works of Madame Blavatsky, and the books whence she copied the plagiarised passages; they also contain complete lists of the passages plagiarised, giving in each case the page of Madame Blavatsky’s work in which the passage is found, and the page and name of the book whence she copied it. Any one can, therefore, easily test the accuracy of my statements.

    In Isis Unveiled, published in 1877, I discovered some 2000 passages copied from other books without proper credit. By careful analysis I found that in compiling Isis about 100 books were used. About 1400 books are quoted from and referred to in this work; but, from the 100 books which its author possessed, she copied everything in Isis taken from and relating to the other 1300. There are in Isis about 2100 quotations from and references to books that were copied, at second-hand, from books other than the originals; and of this number only about 140 are credited to the books from which Madame Blavatsky copied them at second-hand. The others are quoted in such a manner as to lead the reader to think that Madame Blavatsky had read and utilised the original works, and had quoted from them at first-hand, - the truth being that these originals had evidently never been read by Madame Blavatsky. By this means many readers of Isis, and subsequently those of her Secret Doctrine and Theosophical Glossary, have been misled into thinking Madame Blavatsky an enormous reader, possessed of vast erudition; while the fact is her reading was very limited, and her ignorance was profound in all branches of knowledge.
    I can relate to the exhaustive analysis aspects of Coleman's work, but his approach leaves me cold. In the 1952 book Plagiarism and Originality Alexander Lindey discusses the vices inherent in the method that Coleman took, what Jack London called the "deadly parallel" approach in a letter defending his own use of other writer’s material. Lindey suggests that, "Parallel-hunters do not, as a rule, set out to be truthful and impartial. They are hell-bent on proving a point." This does not always have to be the case, I believe that one can look for parallels without a set agenda, but Coleman clearly had an ax to grind.

    Lindey also states, "A double-column analysis is a dissection. An autopsy will reveal a great deal about a cadaver, but very little about the spirit of the man who once inhabited it." I suggest that in the case of Dylan’s memoir very often the opposite is at play. Frequently what Dylan is saying on the surface is false, with many tales that are clearly not based in reality and through the dissection one can sometimes catch the occasional soupçon of the spirit of the man.

    Robert Duncan had a much different take on Blavatsky's use of the material of others. Consider this passage from the book Contextual Practice: Assemblage and the Erotic in Postwar Poetry and Art by Stephen Fredman:
    'In the mess of astrology, alchemy, numerology, magic orders, neo-Platonic, kabbalistic, and Vedic systems, combined, confused, and explained, queered evolution and wishful geology, transposed heads,' Blavatsky discovered, Duncan claims, 'the collagist’s art.' The elements of collage he discerns in Blavatsky include a 'charged fascination' with the material being composed, an obedience to unknown but compelling feelings, and a new respect for discarded phenomena: 'Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, midden heaps that they are of unreasonable sources, are midden heaps where, beyond the dictates of reason, as in the collagist’s art, from what has been disregarded or fallen into disregard, genres are mixed, exchanges are made, mutations begun from scraps and excerpts from different pictures…to form the figures of a new composition.'
    The collagist’s art forming the figures of a new composition is a great way to approach Chronicles: Volume One. In The H.D. Book Duncan writes that, "...in Blavatsky’s theosophy the individual psyche inhabits every place and time..." Dylan constantly plays with place and time in Chronicles: Volume One. He very often has one character inhabit multiple places and times, if you look closely at how they have been constructed.

    A good example of this is Billy the Butcher, someone Dylan writes about encountering at the Café Wha?. In my New Haven Review essay I show how he is, in part, a disguised version of the 19th century scoundrel William "Bill the Butcher" Poole. At the very same time he is also one of the characters from the Hemingway short story "The Killers." Dylan writes, “The Butcher wore an overcoat that was too small for him, buttoned tight across the chest."

    "The Killers":
    He wore a derby hat and a black overcoat buttoned across the chest. His face was small and white and he had tight lips. He wore a silk muffler and gloves.
    'Give me bacon and eggs,' said the other man. He was about the same size as Al. Their faces were different, but they were dressed like twins. Both wore overcoats too tight for them.
    Why would Dylan have a character from "The Killers" playing the Café Wha?? I believe that the answer has to do with vaudeville. Hemingway writes, "In their tight overcoats and derby hats they looked like a vaudeville team." Dylan returns to "The Killers" later on in the book, when he partners with artist Robyn Whitlaw and does a vaudeville routine.

    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 66:
    One of them, Robyn Whitlaw, the outlaw artist walked by in a motion like a slow dance. I said to her, 'What's happening?' 'I'm here to eat the big dinner', she responded.
    "The Killers":
    'What do they do here nights?' Al asked.
    'They eat the dinner," his friend said. 'They all come here and eat the big dinner.'
    Dylan also incorporates an element from one of Hemingway's letters regarding "The Killers" into Chronicles: Volume One, and lines from many other Hemingway stories appear throughout the book.

    Regarding Billy the Butcher Dylan writes, “…sometime in the past he'd been in a straitjacket in Bellevue…” and that just might be another flash of Mingus, because Mingus in a straitjacket in Bellevue is a pivotal moment in Beneath The Underdog.

    One character, in just a few sentences, zips through space and time. Many other characters do this as well. A close look at the description of John Hammond on page five of Chronicles: Volume One reveals a nod to The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. This playing with time is a scheme that is used throughout the book, one of many that deserve a closer look.

    Combining the diligence of William Emmette Coleman in uncovering the source material with the approach suggested by Robert Duncan may be a path to a better understanding what Dylan was up to regarding his extensive use of the material of others. When it comes to Blavatsky it is especially worth exploring the view of her as a charlatan, considering the way that charlatanism plays a key role in the hidden subtext of Chronicles: Volume One. In 2003 A.O. Scott wrote an interesting review of Dylan’s film Masked and Anonymous for The New York Times. He commented, “His lifelong foraging in the overgrown pastures of American popular culture has taught him that the true prophet is often indistinguishable from the snake-oil salesman, and his gaunt, weathered frame contains both personas.” That snake-oil salesman mask intrigues me, and there is a lot to learn about that persona if one takes the time to look at the rough ore that Dylan stamped with his own die.


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  9. Courtiers are like magicians: They deceptively play with appearances, only letting those around them see what they want them to see. With so much deception and manipulation afoot, it is essential to keep people from seeing your tricks and glimpsing your sleight of hand. - Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

    Open confidences are being made every day, and it remains for the eye to train itself to see them without prejudice or restraint. - Man Ray, "The Age of Light"

    A way to gain some insight into what Bob Dylan might have had in mind with his controversial Gagosian Gallery show The Asia Series is to examine the clues that he has planted in the interview that appears in the catalog. I've covered a few of these in my two previous posts and there are still many more to consider.

    In the interview Dylan states, "Winston Churchill made a lot of paintings, mostly landscapes and cottages. Nobody compares his artistry with his diplomacy. He said that he knew of nothing else that more completely occupied the mind without exhausting the body. That's probably a clue to why people paint."

    Dylan flat out tells you that this is a clue. He also just told you that black is white; Churchill's artistry and his diplomacy are intertwined and Dylan is quite aware of this. In his memoir Chronicles: Volume One Dylan uses elements from a section of Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power titled “The Science of Charlatanism, or How to Create a Cult in Five Easy Steps" in a most intriguing way. I explore this in my 2010 New Haven Review essay "Bob Charlatan." In Greene's book Law 24 is "Play The Perfect Courtier" and I suggest that Courtier Bob is referencing this example given by Greene:

    Scene XI
    Winston Churchill was an amateur artist, and after World War II his paintings became collector's items. The American publisher Henry Luce, in fact, creator of Time and Life magazines, kept one of Churchill's landscapes hanging in his private office in New York. On a tour through the United States once, Churchill visited Luce in his office, and the two men looked at the painting together. The publisher remarked, "It's a good picture, but I think it needs something in the foreground — a sheep, perhaps.” Much to Luce's horror, Churchill's secretary called the publisher the next day and asked him to have the painting sent to England. Luce did so, mortified that he had perhaps offended the former prime minister. A few days later, however, the painting was shipped back, but slightly altered: a single sheep now grazed peacefully in the foreground.

    In stature and fame, Churchill stood head and shoulders above Luce, but Luce was certainly a man of power, so let us imagine a slight equality between them. Still, what did Churchill have to fear from an American publisher? Why bow to the criticism of a dilettante? A court—in this case the entire world of diplomats and international statesmen, and also of the journalists who court them—is a place of mutual dependence. It is unwise to insult or offend the taste of people of power, even if they are below or equal to you. If a man like Churchill can swallow the criticisms of a man like Luce, he proves himself a courtier without peer. (Perhaps his correction of the painting implied a certain condescension as well, but he did it so subtly that Luce did not perceive any slight.) Imitate Churchill: Put in the sheep. It is always beneficial to play the obliging courtier, even when you are not serving a master.

    Other elements from this section of Greene's book show up in Chronicles: Volume One. Regarding Fred Neil at The Café Wha? Dylan writes, "He was the emperor of the place, even had his own harem, his devotees. You couldn't touch him. Everything revolved around him." That is right out of Scene II in the "Play The Perfect Courtier" chapter. There Greene writes, "The Chinese emperor was considered more than a man—he was a force of nature. His kingdom was the center of the universe, and everything revolved around him."

    Dylan balances his portrait of Fred Neil with some interesting nuances. Not only is Neil part Chinese emperor, but Dylan also has painted him with colors drawn from Sax Rohmer's description of Dr. Fu-Manchu's slave girl Kâramanèh. (I owe the Rohmer observation to Ed Cook.)

    Chronicles: Volume One, p. 10:

    Freddy had the flow, dressed conservatively, sullen and brooding, with an enigmatical gaze, peachlike complexion, hair splashed with curls and an angry and powerful baritone voice that struck blue notes and blasted them to the rafters with or without a mike.

    The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu
    by Sax Rohmer:

    What eyes she had!—of that blackly lustrous sort nearly always associated with unusually dark complexions; but Kâramanèh's complexion was peachlike, or rather of an exquisite and delicate fairness which reminded me of the petal of a rose. By some I have been accused of romancing about this girl's beauty, but only by those who had not met her; for indeed she was astonishingly lovely.

    At last her eyes fell, the long lashes drooped upon her cheeks. She turned and walked slowly to the chair in which Fu-Manchu had sat. Placing the keys upon the table amid the scientific litter, she rested one dimpled elbow upon the yellow page of the book, and with her chin in her palm, again directed upon me that enigmatical gaze.

    In a review of the Dylan show that appeared in The New York Times yesterday Holland Cotter writes, "It’s just dull, and in the context of the present pervasive dullness and unoriginality of a lot of painting in New York, it fits in all too well." Context is critical when considering what Dylan is doing. It is easy to just place Dylan's work in a boring context and label it boring as well, but Cotter does more. He hints that there might be something else going on, hedging his bet by noting, "...unless there’s some Duchampian gesture afoot here..." in his review. I pointed out such a Duchampian gesture in my post "Dylan, Duchamp and the Letter from Woody" two weeks ago.

    I suggest that the editors at The New York Times give staff enigmatologist Will Shortz a crack at The Asia Series. He is better equipped to recognize the schemes that are afoot in the puzzles that surround the paintings. He might have a view that plunges past "remarkably dull."

    Dylan makes a game out of being labeled dull by critics in Chronicles: Volume One. When writing about hearing Roy Orbison on the radio he notes, "I'd listen and wait for another song, but next to Roy the playlist was strictly dullsville . . . gutless and flabby." One of the things that Dylan is doing there is referencing a review of one of his concerts that appeared in Variety. The headline was "BOB DYLAN DESTROYS HIS LEGEND IN MELBOURNE: CONCERT STRICTLY DULLSVILLE." That review was published on April 27, 1966. Nearly half a century later some recent headlines might as well have read "BOB DYLAN DESTROYS HIS LEGEND IN NEW YORK: PAINTINGS STRICTLY DULLSVILLE." Dylan's dullsville dispatches deserve a deeper dive.

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  10. "They hadn't been on ship but about two weeks, I'm sure it was not three/When she espied his cloven hoof and wept most bitterly" - "The House Carpenter"

    The processes used by Bob Dylan in his art are fascinating and in John Elderfield's introduction to his interview with Dylan that appears in the catalog for The Asia Series he gives a bit of background on the collaborative process they used to craft it. He writes, "It developed in the precise sequence in which it is printed, our conversations continuing—such is Dylan's focus on getting things right—until it reached what Marcel Duchamp would call a 'definitively incomplete' state at the end of June."

    I find Dylan's use of the interview as art form, that "focus on getting things right," to be far more interesting than the paintings that they discuss. In my previous post, which centered on what appears to be a hidden nod by Dylan to Duchamp, I mentioned that there are other coded references to explore. My previous post established how Dylan discusses Woody Guthrie on the surface of the interview and also in a coded fashion by using an element from one of Guthrie's letters. Dylan employs this same strategy several times in the interview.

    A comment that Dylan makes in the interview is, "Painting is visual. There isn't anything Darwinistic about it, whereas making music is more like stunt flying or bullfighting." What Dylan seems to be doing here is referencing an essay on the fall of boxer Mike Tyson by Joyce Carol Oates.

    "Rape and the Boxing Ring" Newsweek February 24, 1992:

    The paradox of boxing is that it so excessively rewards men for inflicting injury upon one another that, outside the ring, with less 'art,' would be punishable as aggravated assault, or manslaughter. Boxing belongs to that species of mysterious masculine activity for which anthropologists use such terms as 'deep play': activity that is wholly without utilitarian value, in fact contrary to utilitarian value, so dangerous that no amount of money can justify it. Sports-car racing, stunt flying, mountain climbing, bullfighting, dueling — these activities, through history, have provided ways in which the individual can dramatically, if sometimes fatally, distinguish himself from the crowd, usually with the adulation and envy of the crowd, and traditionally, the love of women. Women — in essence, Woman — is the prize, usually self-proffered. To look upon organized sports as a continuum of Darwinian theory — in which the sports-star hero flaunts the superiority of his genes — is to see how displays of masculine aggression have their sexual component, as ingrained in human beings as any instinct for self-preservation and reproduction. In a capitalist society, the secret is to capitalize upon instinct.

    Of course playing music is not like stunt flying or bullfighting, in that one is unlikely to die by engaging in the act, but the distinctions between playing music for the adulation of the crowd, the love of women and the inherent sexual component versus the solitary act of painting that Dylan makes in this way are interesting. Boxing as Dylan's sport of choice is well known, but the subject matter here is not what draws my attention - it is the author of the piece. Joyce Carol Oates' haunting short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?," perhaps her most noted work, begins with the dedication "For Bob Dylan."

    Dylan's planting of the reference to Oates in this interview could serve as a marker or clue in his vast array of puzzles and games. In "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" a young girl is led to her doom by one Arnold Friend. In an interview with John Knott and Christopher Keaske for their book Mirrors: An Introduction to Literature Oates stated, "Arnold Friend is a fantastic figure: he is Death, he is the 'elf-knight' of the ballads, he is the Imagination, he is a Dream, he is a Lover, a Demon, and all that."

    Oates' description of the daemon lover in her short story includes, "The driver's glasses were metallic and mirrored everything in miniature." Later she adds, "He opened the door very carefully, as if he were afraid it might fall off. He slid out just as carefully, planting his feet firmly on the ground, the tiny metallic world in his glasses slowing down like gelatine hardening, and in the midst of it Connie's bright green blouse."

    I've long considered that a passage in Chronicles: Volume One, a book that is filled with hundreds of reworked lines from other sources, could be an allusion to the mirrored sunglasses of an old fiend known as A. Friend. On page 164 of his memoir Dylan makes a quick passing comment regarding his wife:

    She could make me feel like I wasn't in some godforsaken hole. One day when she was wearing metallic sunglasses I could see myself in miniature and thought how small everything had become.

    This section of Chronicles: Volume One is loaded with word play. For instance, the previous page has a tale about seeing soul singer Joe Tex on The Tonight Show that is crafted out of elements from Gerri Hirshey's Nowhere to Run. The following page has a line from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Go another page in either direction and you'll find reworked material from Jack London, Joe Eszterhas, Marcel Proust and Sax Rohmer - if you know where to look.

    It has been noted that disc jockey Bobby King in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" may reflect aspects of Dylan as well. In their essay "Connie's Tambourine Man: A New Reading of Arnold Friend" Mike Tierce and John Michael Crafton explore the messianic aspects of Friend. They write, "Rising out of Connie's radio, Arnold Friend/Bob Dylan is a magical, musical messiah; he persuades Connie to abandon her father's house. As a manifestation of her own desires, he frees her from the limitations of a fifteen-year-old girl, assisting her maturation by stripping her of her childlike vision."

    Over the years I've clocked thousands and thousands of hours on the air as a disc jockey, so I tend to pay especial attention to the role of the disc jockey in literature. I'm struck by a passage where Oates captures a bit of Bobby King's patter:

    She sat on the edge of her bed, barefoot, and listened for an hour and a half to a program called XYZ Sunday Jamboree, record after record of hard, fast, shrieking songs she sang along with, interspersed by exclamations from "Bobby King": "An' look here, you girls at Napoleon's — Son and Charley want you to pay real close attention to this song coming up!"  

    As a student of the blues when I read "Son and Charley" I immediately think of Son House and Charley Patton. I can't help but wonder if Oates might have considered that too. I imagine disc jockey Bobby King working in oblique references to some of his favorite artists in between the shrieking songs in a way that would go over the heads of his teenage listeners.

    "Along with Son House and Charley Patton no one was more important to the development of Delta blues than Tommy Johnson" said Dylan the disc jockey on an episode of his Theme Time Radio Hour. It's as if Bobby King, the blues fanatic who had to play the Top 40 of the day, finally got to spin the records that he loved on the radio so many decades later. 

    Of critical writing on "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" there is no shortage. Much is made of this passage: "'Now, these numbers are a secret code, honey,' Arnold Friend explained. He read off the numbers 33, 19, 17 and raised his eyebrows at her to see what she thought of that, but she didn't think much of it."

    I am taken by the broad range of interpretations of what the secret code that is painted on Friend's golden car might mean. One interpretation has you counting the books of the Bible in reverse, another posits that the numbers add up to a sexual position. Yet another suggests that it represents the true age of Friend followed by the ages of his previous victims. I think that there is a chance that Dylan has come up with his own code, one that points in the direction of Arnold Friend.

    "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" was sparked in part by the true crimes of the notorious Charles "Smitty" Schmid. This strange charismatic thrill-killer was dubbed "The Pied Piper of Tucson" by LIFE magazine in an article of the same name back in 1966. Oates comments on this in one of her books.

    From (Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities:

    He charmed his victims as charismatic psychopaths have always charmed their victims, to the bewilderment of others who fancy themselves free of all lunatic attractions. The Pied Piper of Tucson: a trashy dream, a tabloid archetype, sheer artifice, comedy, cartoon — surrounded, however improbably, and finally tragically, by real people. You think that, if you look twice, he won't be there. But there he is. I don't remember any longer where I first read about this Pied Piper — very likely in Life Magazine. I do recall deliberately not reading the full article because I didn't want to be distracted by too much detail. It was not after all the mass murderer himself who intrigued me, but the disturbing fact that a number of teenagers — from "good" families — aided and abetted his crimes.

    I'll give Oates a pass for not recognizing the difference between a mass murderer and a serial killer. In my previous post I mentioned that the eight foot tall image of a 1966 LIFE magazine cover with added cryptic text by Dylan that is on the Gagosian Gallery website deserves additional scrutiny. Here is Dylan's added text:

    The Shadow
    The Mask
    The Bowl
    The Underworld
    The Birds
    The Enemy
    The Prick
    The Tower
    The Risk Taking
    The Test of Time
    Thinking Outside the Box
    What Happens Next

    "What Happens Next" added to the cover of the February 25, 1966 issue of LIFE could be interpreted in a number of ways. An approach that incorporates the cliched "Thinking Outside the Box" would be to consider the following issue of LIFE, in that it is what happens next. The next issue of LIFE was dated March 4, 1966. That just happens to be the issue that features the article "The Pied Piper of Tucson" by Don Moser.

    There is much more going on here. If you can tune out the noise coming from the echo chamber of accusations leveled towards Dylan over the past few weeks and look at the work there are plenty of intriguing things to find.

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