Monday, 2 March 2009

On Digging That Cat Bob Dylan...

It was my friend the massively erudite and prolific author/journalist Kevin Jackson who first introduced me to the technical term 'BobCat', maybe 2-3 years ago now? As I recall, it was while we were dining with the polymathic filmmaker Paul Schrader, a hero to this Blog, and himself a conspicuous BobCat. But the very fact that the whole BobCat business was all news to me as recently as then is testimony to the truth that I'm only a very amateur and third-rate sort of a Bob Dylan Fan.
I do have most of his long-playing records, and I dabble on the fringes of Dylan scholarship, albeit far removed (even alienated) from the serious esoterica and apocrypha. Moreover, like a whole bunch of practising novelists, be they good, bad, or mediocre, I often write with music on for the purpose of mood and glancing inspiration; and so I can say that a fair bit of Crusaders was written to the soundtrack of Dylan's so-called 'Christian' albums (Slow Train Coming, admittedly, much the favourite of these.) But that's about the size of my Bobcatness. (Actually, hang on, for what it's worth there are a few hommages to Dylan lyrics in my The Name of this Book is Dogme 95, which were astutely spotted and thrown back to me by the Copenhagen-based scholar and Bobcat Carsten Jensen.)
So why are these selective Visions of Bob now keeping me up past the dawn? Well, for one thing, the aforementioned K. Jackson recently dropped me a line to let me know he was ploughing 'through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books', and I was slow enough to ask him why... It so happens that Kevin is writing another of his daunting scholarly works, this one on the modernist literature of the 1920s. But still, honestly... No BobCat, I, to have missed that glaring reference. Nonetheless, however weakly, I managed to shoot back to Kevin that I 'couldn't even touch the books he'd read', in point of numbers at least... And we had a good exchange about the particularly Dylanesque love/hate of lists of learned reading, a matter on which Bob expounded further in the little-read Tarantula, which is as near as I get to his esoterica.
Furthermore, me and this Blog are pleased to have received another commendation from the excellent and previously cited The Story and The Truth maintained by Anna French and Dan Hartland; and while rooting round that site I just read this fine essay by Hartland on the 'great late trilogy' formed by Dylan's most recently released trio of albums. Again, like a heretic, I must admit that of the three in question only Time Out of Mind gets much play round my house. But then I played it just the other day, during novel-writing hours... See, I'm tryin' to get to heaven, before they close the door...
On which topic, I must just squeeze in this morsel from Ian Parker's assiduous observational New Yorker profile of Christopher Hitchens, published back in 2006 - one of those journalistic snapshots that just sticks with you, both the story and the telling of it:
"Hitchens went into the house and put on Bob Dylan's 'Tryin' to Get to Heaven'; he stood in the doorway and sung quietly along. He quoted Philip Larkin on Dylan: a 'cawing, derisive voice.' He repeated Larkin's words a few times, approvingly. His daughter got out of the pool, and said, pleasantly, 'Can we close this door, so nobody else has to hear this?'... She went back to her friends. 'Look,' Hitchens said happily. 'They're waiting for us to die.'"

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