i have been ragging on dylan, a lot, for a long time. i do actually think bob dylan is some kind of mass delusion. it's like i can't believe - really can't believe - that anyone thinks he's any good, much less that everyone nods along to the notion that he's is a god-touched genius or whatever. i regard him as a charlatan and substantially less than a mediocrity. this month's nyrb has a piece by the poet don chiasson: "the genius of bob dylan": i bet there have been hundreds of pieces with that headline over the years. if people didn't just nod along with this after all these decades despite the actual hooey, the piece would be just be obviously absurd. none of the quotations have an iota of poetry in them. he starts with this, evidently the tour de force that's supposed to blow people away: "Early one morning the sun was shining, I was laying in bed,/ Wondering if she'd changed at all, If her hair was still red." he spends a couple of paragraphs analyzing the use of pronouns in this passage, detecting the signs of transcendent genius therein. one wonders whether he detects genius in every conversation with a waitress, or every note from hubby: 'would you pick up a half gallon of milk on the way home?'
in groupie tones, chiasson reports that dylan has performed 'tangled up in blue' 1,400 times. how does he know this? because websites keep track, as though they were following jesus around waiting for the crucifixion (the wait is interminable, i admit) and writing gospels. nothing chiasson quotes does anything or goes anywhere, but at least none of the pseudo-surrealist hooey from the '60s is included. he is amazed that dylan mentions t.s. eliot in a song, evidence i guess of dylan's literary importance. well he definitely needs some sort of evidence, because all he's got so far is bilge. he praises the harmonica playing. i recommend 7 seconds of little walter as a permanent cure. somehow ersatz + suckass = authentic to white people, which is a devastating indictment of our race. so, let me ask again as i asked before: what if it turned out that a man must walk down 138 roads before you can call him a man? what then, o wind?
don't make me quote and quote and quote. i don't think people are even seeing or reading or hearing what is right in front of their face. i don't doubt that, despite his overweening meaninglessness, dylan meant something to people at a certain moment, though there were thirty other loutish folk singers who'd have been better in the role. but at any rate, the moment is over, and you're not getting it back by listening to tangled up in blue another 1400 times. on the other hand, knock yourself out. i'll lend you my hammer.