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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, June 21, 2004

Tim Riley is interesting on Christopher Ricks' new book, "Dylan's Visions of Sin", and makes, I think, a very important point: it is a huge mistake to take Dylan out of his rock 'n' roll context-- or even out of the context of his music as a whole. On the page, Dylan's lyrics are wrenched out of context, and although sure, he's a poet, he is a poet who practices in a particular form. Elevating the text above the music diminishes both, and diminishes Dylan. I'm reading Robert Shelton's Dylan biography, "No Direction Home" at the moment, and enjoying it quite a bit: it seems clear that from an early stage in his career Dylan's self aggrandizement led him to a sort of imaginary world that became his own invention and that only he could describe. Greil Marcus has written about the "weird, old America" that Dylan's world resembled: it seems to me that Dylan may have inspired Marcus to explore that world, but that the resemblances between Marcus' invisible republic and Dylan's world are as much a product of Marcus' creativity as they are real places that both men are describing. In a way, Marcus' book is like someone writing a history of Macondo-- and Shelton's book is like someone trying to describe Macondo by telling about Marquez' life.

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