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10/15/2016

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In a piece in The Atlantic ("The Swedish Academy hasn’t redefined 'literature.' It’s simply praised the written byproduct of a musical career."), here's something Michiko Kakutani of the NY Times wrote 31 years ago that gives a bit of detail to support Andrew Ferguson's case that Dylan's work is not literature:

Simply reading a song, we miss the ways in which the words interact with the music—how, say, the sardonic lyrics to many of the songs on ''Highway 61 Revisited'' counterpoint the upbeat, even exuberant tracks—and we are deprived, as well, of the point of view supplied by Mr. Dylan's raw, insistent inflections and distinctive phrasings. Numbers like ''Lay, Lady, Lay,'' ''Blowin' in the Wind'' and even ''Like a Rolling Stone'' feel considerably more trite as prose poems than as songs, and many of Mr. Dylan's weaker efforts —''New Pony,'' say, or ''Emotionally Yours''—simply collapse into pretentious posturing when separated from their propulsive tracks, which at least helped to endow them with a modicum of conviction on the records.

Right on target. I may have said this in the comments on the other post, so pardon if I have: it's almost impossible for anyone who knows the recordings to read the words without hearing the music, and not just the tune but Dylan's very distinctive and expressive "reading" of them. However, if you make the effort, and come close to doing it, you can't help seeing that they're fairly flat. Or at least I can't. There are a lot of striking images, especially in the early rock recordings that are the foundation of his reputation, but they don't have a lot of music (in the poetic sense).

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