Wrote Bob Dylan in his great book "Chronicles." I don't know if the Nobel Committee included that book in its reasons for giving him their big award, but I loved "Chronicles" and blogged it in detail, chapter by chapter, back in 2004. You can find all the old posts with the "Dylan's 'Chronicles'" tag.
Ah! That tag got me to a 2013 post reacting to a NYT piece by Bill Wyman (not that Bill Wyman) about how Bob Dylan could win the Nobel Prize for Literature. I said:
It's hard to believe Bob Dylan would like the Nobel Prize. It's just a topic to write articles about and to get traffic flowing wherever they're published. Remember the backstory to the song "Day of the Locusts":But back to that Dylan quote in the title. That's from Chapter 5, the last chapter of "Chronicles," blogged here (where there are links to the posts on the earlier chapters).
"Sara was trying to get Bob to go to Princeton University, where he was being presented with an honorary doctorate. Bob did not want to go. I said, 'C'mon, Bob it's an honor!' Sara and I both worked on him for a long time. Finally, he agreed. I had a car outside, a big limousine. That was the first thing he didn't like.... When we arrived at Princeton, they took us to a little room and Bob was asked to wear a cap and gown. He refused outright. They said, 'We won't give you the degree if you don't wear this.' Dylan said, 'Fine. I didn't ask for it in the first place.'..."Anyway, I was thinking about that line "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke," as we were talking about the old aphorism "Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel" (which I attributed to Racine, and a commenter said was really from Horace Walpole). Bob Dylan also sings about getting a letter in which he was asked how he was doing: "Was that some kind of joke?" But there's more to comedy than jokes, so his contempt for jokes shouldn't mark him as a nonthinker, even if we take the old Walpole saying as gospel.
How people felt about Communists in northern Minnesota: "People weren't scared of them, seemed to be a big to-do over nothing." P. 271....I went back to that post in June 2008 when I was trying to figure out what Bob Dylan meant by something he said about the presidential candidate Barack Obama. He'd said (to an interviewer who'd asked him to comment on the upcoming election):
Dylan's favorite politician: Barry Goldwater. P. 283.
Why: "[he] reminded me of Tom Mix."
Bob Dylan song that mentions Goldwater: "I Shall Be Free, No. 10."
Now, I'm liberal, but to a degree
I want ev'rybody to be free
But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I'm crazy!
I wouldn't let him do it for all the farms in Cuba.
"Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval," he says. "Poverty is demoralising. You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor. But we've got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up... Barack Obama. He's redefining what a politician is, so we'll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I'm hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to." He offers a parting handshake. “You should always take the best from the past, leave the worst back there and go forward into the future,” he notes as the door closes between us.What did I say back then, back before Barack Obama actually did that thing of being President? Considering the material I'd dug out of Chapter 5, I said:
I think we can say that door-closing Dylan is not that comfortable with talk about politics. In the book, that statement "I liked the old news better" got him to talking about his interest in reading history. His love of Barry Goldwater had something to do with style and cowboys. Here's Tom Mix. I can see the Goldwater resemblance. But why would Dylan say he liked Goldwater and give that as the reason? He's playing with us, hiding again, letting us know he's different from other people — he thinks with a poet's logic. Ordinary political people bother him. (So a politician who could "redefine" politics might appeal to him in a special way.)
And what do we make of the reference to Goldwater in "I Shall Be Free No. 10"? Read the lyrics. It begins:
I'm just average, common tooSo he's playing a character. Obviously, not Bob Dylan, who's very different from us and whom there is use in talking to, because it's not at all the same as talking to yourself. The "I" here is a comical everyman — the ultimate conformist. But then the lyrics proceed in lots of different directions, and sometimes the "I" is Dylan, but I think the Goldwater verse is not Dylan. It's a hypocritical liberal whom Dylan mocks. The liberal wants freedom for all, but is ready to discriminate against the conservative: "I want ev'rybody to be free/But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater/Move in next door and marry my daughter/You must think I'm crazy!"
I'm just like him, the same as you
I'm everybody's brother and son
I ain't different from anyone
It ain't no use a-talking to me
It's just the same as talking to you.
To use "all the farms in Cuba" as the thing of great value to the character speaking these lines is to suggest that the liberal is really a Communist and to show an even darker side to his desire to repress the conservative. It's also part of the silliness and nonsense of this song, which shifts all over the place, changing points of view and flipping around absurdly.
That's just something he figured out how to do to keep us guessing what he's really talking about.
Now you're probably wondering by nowSo if you're probably wondering by now just what his "endorsement" of Barack Obama is all about... it's nothing. It's something he said over in Denmark.
Just what this song is all about...