Burke Khang Revisted - The last post I made about Burke Khang and our historic first ascent attempt, was from the Yak & Yeti Hotel in Kathmandu around this same time last year. c...
5 hours ago
adventures and observations*****www.georgeconk.blogspot.com
Here's what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you'd expect he would be. He wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that. He came in and played "The Times They Are A-Changin'." A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I'm sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That's how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don't want him to be all cheesin' and grinnin' with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.
So put me down as a YES on Dylan's honor. He really is a great writer. Chronicles is excellent. But it's for his poetic lyrics that he will be rightfully remembered. Literary critic Christopher Ricks Dylan's Visions of Sin persuaded me that Dylan can hold his own with writers from Shakespeare to Browning, to Keats. As one reviewer, Andrew Motion in the Guardian writes:
Dylan's Visions of Sin is a labour of love, and a proof that he's won (though not by himself) the argument about his man. These days no one would think - would they? - that it's doubtfully transgressive or suspiciously cool to call Dylan a genius. Perhaps for this reason one of the most exciting things about the book is its air of vindication. "I've told you before, and now I'm going to tell you good," it seems to say at the outset, before unspooling at great length and with a mixture of skittishness and seriousness heady even by Ricks's standards.
The rewards are just as one would expect: a bracing attention to artfulness, a wonderful sensitivity to nuance, and a particularly brilliant sympathy with the purpose and effect of Dylan's rhymes. The big figures in Ricks's pantheon - Empson, Eliot and (yes) Keats - are repeatedly invoked to give a context other than the ones in which Dylan usually appears, and generous attention is given to less familiar songs as well as the more famous ones.
The overall structure, too, is appropriately fixed and capacious: realising that "the word 'sin' haunts [Dylan's] songs" Ricks gives seven chapters on the deadly sins themselves, four on the virtues, and three on the heavenly graces. In each case, he discusses lyrics that illustrate the theme in question - "Song to Woody", "Positively 4th Street", "Blind Willie McTell" and "Handy Dandy" for envy, "Gotta Serve Somebody" and "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" for covetousness, and so on. Just as the governing idea of embarrassment in his Keats book allowed him to keep a clear end in view and also to wander, so these divisions maintain a definite shape while making space for diversions, asides and elaborations.