October 31, 2018

Rereading "The Lottery," rewriting "Tangled Up In Blue."

I'm noticing the "Most Popular" list in the sidebar at The New Yorker today:



It wasn't originally published on Halloween, but I've seen it mentioned a few times recently, as people engage in seasonal talk about what's the scariest story. The New Yorker originally published "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson on June 26, 1948, and they're featuring it again now. It begins with what long ago became a horror-movie cliché, the lovely, seemingly normal day:
The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.
Of course, I'm also interested in "Bob Dylan’s First Day with 'Tangled Up in Blue.'" Can't be anything too creepy and weird in there.
Most interesting, while Dylan gamely puts the band through their paces on the seemingly easy blues of “Call Letter Blues” and “Meet Me in the Morning” (after attempts at “Simple Twist of Fate” failed miserably), he never lets them near what he surely senses must be his latest masterpiece: “Tangled Up in Blue.” And so, on the afternoon of September 17th, Dylan steps up to the microphone and delivers a hushed, intense, and powerfully intimate version of that song, accompanied only by Brown on bass.
Audio at the link.
While Dylan is known to endlessly and brutally edit his lyrics until the very last minute in the studio... “Tangled Up in Blue” is the one song in Dylan’s vast catalogue that he has never seemed to be finished with...

Fans who have seen Dylan in concert recently will recognize some of the changes, of how “he let the law take its course” has taken the place of using “a little too much force,” or how instead of “fishing outside Delacroix,” “everybody’d gone somewhere.” Of course, the past is still close behind, “following me like a shadow that couldn’t get out of my mind / sticking like glue / Tangled up in blue,” but she isn’t working in a topless bar anymore but at the Moonlight Lounge, “where men put money in her hand.” “There’s always been a certain truth about money that I never did understand,” this new version of Dylan’s classic tells us. “You put things to bed and you’ll call it a day / Sometimes you go along for the ride / You pick your brains and you bury the hatchet / Then you walk on the wild side / Towns are ruined and cities burns and images disappear / Weep with all of your heart if you would / I too cried a tear / Nothing you can do / If you’re tangled up in blue.” It recasts the song in the spirit of our times, in the same way the original was so much a product of the Vietnam and Watergate era....
 It's like blogging, continually rewriting the lyrics to "Tangled Up In Blue."

26 comments:

Amadeus 48 said...

Shirley Jackson obviously loved her time in Vermont. Shortly after she moved there, she started writing stories that featured sinister, secretive, perhaps inbred characters. Take a good look at the caretaker in The Haunting of Hill House. The Lottery has lots of local color.

EDH said...

A "woke" perspective: White privilege, much?

According to Dylan, the bad part about slavery is it's effect on white people?

Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I read "The Lottery" in middle school. It was in the English Literature book. It is not the least bit scary. Its a cautionary tale dealing with social conformity. Of course I stole and my older sister's copy of "The Exorcist" when I was in grade school, so that may have warped my perspective.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

and read

surfed said...

The last time I saw Bob in concert - which will remain the last time I saw Bob in concert - the only "hit" he performed was "Tangled Up in Blue". As such, only some of the lyrics were recognizable - mainly the chorus. Even the melody had been reconfigured. I'm guessing there will never be a "Garden Party" for Bob.

Fernandistein said...

And something inside of him died

Was it a botfly, a tapeworm, or something gross?

CJinPA said...

It recasts the song in the spirit of our times, in the same way the original was so much a product of the Vietnam and Watergate era.

Is that true? I don't really know the song.

Those were big events, but life and societies are complex and the vast majority of Americans were not touched by those two events. The amount of writing that came out of that era and is said to hit those themes seems wildly disproportionate to impact of those events.

dustbunny said...

I’ve been listening to the new ‘More Blood, More Tracks’ (great title!) that NPR has on its site. Idiot wind is quiet, so different from the released version, but I’m happy to have both the NY and Mpls versions available. Strangely enough I’m also reading the Shirley Jackson biography and yes she found Vermont to be deeply creepy. And! Netflix has a new version of her Haunting of Hill House.

Big Mike said...

I'm 72 years old and my first brush with "The Lottery" was seeing it performed as a play when I was in high school, which means I saw it performed on stage at least 55 years ago. I will disagree with Ron Winkleheimer, because even when performed by high school actors it was quite scary. The build up, the level of foreboding as the plot moves forward -- as a play it works very nicely.

mockturtle said...

The Lottery was a mini-masterpiece.

reader said...

When I was in 6th grade (1977) Mr. Hood showed the short film of The Lottery. He showed it along with another short film involving an Appalachian man, his dead wife, and a bobcat. Both scared the bejeebers out of me. Someone ratted him out and he got in trouble for inappropriate content.

Reading The Lottery later in Jr. High it was unsettling but not scary.

The Crack Emcee said...

I forgot it's Halloween (Boo, Bitches),

"The Lottery" has everything a young person really needs to know about American life. Like "Jean de Florette" and "Manon of the Spring" are to France, it's a bitter love letter, telling our secrets, so kids aren't fooled by the constant call to "Have A Nice Day":

Most people will kill - over a goofy idea - and don't you dare forget it.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I will disagree with Ron Winkleheimer

After reading The Exorcist in 5th grade nothing else comes close.

MayBee said...

The Lottery foretold Twitter mobs. It's a genius book and I hope people see the cautionary tale that it is.

Laslo Spatula said...

Only a month or so ago we were Tangled Up in Boof.

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

"so much a product of the Vietnam and Watergate era"/"Is that true?"

It's long, and the only part that feels like it's tied to the era is:

"I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the cafés at night
And revolution in the air"

That line played in my head the year I taught at Brooklyn Law School (Fall 2007/Spring2008). My walk to work was mostly on Montague Street, and I used to think about the idea that somewhere in the basements, the past lived on, and the air was full of revolution.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Strangely enough I’m also reading the Shirley Jackson biography and yes she found Vermont to be deeply creepy.

So did HP Lovecraft.

http://www.hplovecraft.com/creation/sites/vtnh.aspx

I don't know why. I've been there a couple of times and it seemed quite nice, if a little overrun by hippy types. But they wouldn't have been there when HP Lovecraft was, of course.

Biff said...

"It begins with what long ago became a horror-movie cliché, the lovely, seemingly normal day."

That's part of how I've experienced crisp, cool, cloudless autumn days since September 11, 2001. They had been my favorite kind of days for as long as I can remember, and they still are, but now they include inescapable elements of sadness and horror.

dustbunny said...

Jackson found the townspeople of No. Bennington to be close minded and cold and she translated her feelings of oppression and exclusion into a kind of horror. She was also trapped in a terrible marriage with 4 children whose exploits she wrote about in much sunnier stories. Before moving to Vermont they lived more happily in Greenwich Village but not on Montague St.

eddie willers said...

And! Netflix has a new version of her Haunting of Hill House.

And it's the best original story they have yet created. It is, and is not, what you think it will be.

Terrific acting, layered storytelling, mysteries within mysteries, creative cinematography (one episode mostly an incredibly choreographed single tracking shot) and mostly ominous rather than cheap scares most ghost stories rely on.

Ten episodes and even though I don't binge, I did five the first night and finished the next. Highly recommended.

William Chadwick said...

I recently re-read "The Lottery" as part of an anthology of great horror stories. I still found it effective even though I well knew how it ends up. Also tne anthology, "The Call of Cthulhu," in which a group of NPCs chant "ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" to get Hillary Clinton to run for president again. It's really scary, boys and girls!

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

William Chadwick said...

Also tne anthology, "The Call of Cthulhu," in which a group of NPCs chant "ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" to get Hillary Clinton to run for president again. It's really scary, boys and girls!

That won't work. I'm pretty sure Hillary! is a shoggoth and that's a completely different incantation.

Bad Lieutenant said...

More virgins, probably.


Biff said...
"It begins with what long ago became a horror-movie cliché, the lovely, seemingly normal day."

That's part of how I've experienced crisp, cool, cloudless autumn days since September 11, 2001. They had been my favorite kind of days for as long as I can remember, and they still are, but now they include inescapable elements of sadness and horror.

10/31/18, 10:54 AM

Thank you, I had wanted to say that. I never remember such a perfect blue sky.

eddie willers said...

Thank you, I had wanted to say that. I never remember such a perfect blue sky.

I was sitting at the computer with the radio on when they broke in to say a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I instantly had a picture in my mind of a dreary, foggy misty day with the back end of a Piper Cub sticking out from one of windows of the building.

Turned on the TV and....well, you know the rest.

The Crack Emcee said...

eddie willers said...

"Thank you, I had wanted to say that. I never remember such a perfect blue sky."

It never ends.

Bad Lieutenant said...

I instantly had a picture in my mind of a dreary, foggy misty day with the back end of a Piper Cub sticking out from one of windows of the building.



When my girlfriend said it, I was in bed, and I immediately flashed back to the B-25 that crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945. Getting up, I thought, Gee, they'll have a job to patch that up.

But in fact I had a direct view of the Twin Towers through my kitchen window. facing back of Lorimer Street in Brooklyn. They ordinarily would have been obstructed by a big tree in the backyard but the tree was bare of leaves, it being September, and I could see everything. It was blackly funny to turn one way and see the little TV on my kitchen island showing the disaster, and turn the other way out the window and see the disaster. I suppose that would be some meta Marshall Mcluhan moment for you.

Still innocent in my thinking, I completed my toilet and lit out for work, stopping at the Williamsburg docks for a better look. And apparently German girl with a big camera was there with me and we were looking and jabbering at each other like a couple of tourists.

And then I saw the second plane coming in so clean and perfect looking, its silvery skin winking in the sky, level and smooth. I remember thinking that this was the rise of the machines, no human could fly like that...

Those here who have seen disaster and war, know that there are colors that cannot be captured on video, or perhaps even film. To describe what I saw would be like trying to describe the difference between periwinkle and cerulean to a man born blind. That knowledge will die with me, and I only wish it might never be discovered again.

The moment passed and I knew we were at war.