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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Thursday, June 18, 2009


The previous posting has now pulled in 14 comments from readers, and my own brief response will follow, at the end of the others, today or tomorrow.

Just to be clear: comments get "moderated" before they appear - that is, I can choose to publish or reject each one as it arrives; but what I can't do is edit them in any way. Normally that's only as it should be but sometimes it makes for a small dilemma - when, for instance, someone regrets having included a particular comment or two and so sends another message asking that I delete bits (which of course I can't). But it can also be difficult when one part of a message seems unnecessarily rude but the writer still has a reasonable point to make. In fact, few comments get rejected, and those that do are often not so much unseemly as misplaced - such as those who write asking a Dylan factoid question they could easily answer for themselves by googling.

Anyway, that's the situation.

Meanwhile, this June 15 was ten years to the day since I finished writing the manuscript of Song & Dance Man III - ten years! - a manuscript that had taken up a large part of my 1990s.

It was a very strange feeling, that day, to have finished. And this was followed immediately by a tense few days while I waited for the publisher's verdict on the wordage. The contract had specified a maximum of 400,000 words, and when I finished and then made the computer count it all up, the main text came in at 390,000... but the footnotes were a further 120,000 words!

It was especially worrying because I had known quite a few of Robert Shelton's trials and troubles with his book No Direction Home - particularly when his publisher (several changes of editor down the line) made him cut out 100,000 words. I couldn't imagine a more soul-destroying task. My own editor, Janet Joyce, phoned me eventually to say: "We've decided to go with the book as it is. After all, Michael, what could you cut?!" It was great news, graciously delivered.


Blogger Byrdmaniac said...

The world of research has gone bezerk....too much paperwork....

5:49 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mssr Gray--reading through Song & Dance Man III in fits and starts, for both hunter and gatherer am I and neither but in, uhhr, journeys through dark heat--and very much enjoying it. Wonderful, finally, to see someone put the fucking screws to John Updike, than whom there could hardly be a more deserving recipient, and I appreciate the attention given to "Señor"--it seems to me that the subtitle and the tone of address are a sort of carnival reversal of the stock early-talkie film image of the 'native guide with the box on his head' (something with which you'd surely be familiar from those heady 'Bwana Dik' days), whereby the newly disabused would-be-expat Dylan wants to stand in the same subservience to a vastly different culture but recognizes that it would only be so much gabacho role-playing either way.

I do think, though, that you're a bit hard on Together Through Life; I'm certainly not coming out for it as a masterpiece, and I don't mean to suggest that what I value in it had anything to do with Dylan's effort (much less Robert fucking Hunter's), but I think it works as a sort of study in the deployment of symbolic cultural order. That is to say, something like "Life Is Hard" comes across more or less as a bricolage of WWII ballad clichés perhaps because that's the idea, and likewise with "If You Ever Go to Houston," et al. I don't know how Bob's rating for self-awareness these days--recent Rolling Stone interview didn't seem too canny on that score--but if we can mutually credit him with that kind of metaconsciousness on "Love and Theft (wherein, I'll readily agree, he's doing it much better), perhaps he deserves a certain benefit-of-doubt here ...

11:07 am  

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