Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Bob Dylan.
What do these three figures have in frequent? They had been all widespread figures of mid-century American tradition, adored of their time, who’ve since ascended to the god-like stage of pure icons—worshiped as one thing not fairly human. However solely certainly one of them remains to be alive.
Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
There are different variations, in fact. Dylan grew to become an icon rather more on his personal phrases than both Presley or Monroe, and his expertise as a songwriter is just not actually in query. Every little thing he writes feels a bit “timeless,” together with his newest releases.
Nevertheless it’s nonetheless bizarre to see the announcement of a brand new Dylan biopic starring Timothée Chalamet. How many individuals develop into the topic of two separate biopics—to not point out two documentaries by Martin Scorcese—throughout their lifetime? And whereas Chalamet looks like he may do an excellent job with the function, he’ll be competing with the six performances by six completely different actors—three of them Oscar winners—which had been apparently required to seize Dylan’s polymesmeric essence in I am Not There.
Promotional poster for “I am Not There”
The newest movie, with the working title Going Electrical, will cowl the period of Dylan’s life within the mid-60s, when he made a controversial transition from acoustic folks music to an electrical guitar and an embrace of rock and roll. It is roughly the identical terrain that Cate Blanchett’s portion of I am Not There coated, however with a film all to itself this time, with director James Mangold of Stroll the Line taking the helm. It is a promising mission, and I am certain I will go see it and doubtless stroll away with some new appreciation for Bob Dylan’s life and work… However I’ll nonetheless suppose he is overrated.
For those who launched me to one of many many Dylan albums I’ve by no means heard earlier than, and it instantly grew to become my favourite album, and I listened to it on a loop for every week straight, then I’d nonetheless suppose Dylan was overrated. Individuals revere him as a mythic determine—the progenitor of lyricism, protest, and smoking a cigarette whereas sporting sun shades. A breathless 2016 article in The Guardian, describing a shocking flip in Dylan’s profession, claimed that he “has at all times been keen on turning his personal iconoclasm on the concept of iconoclasm.” What a shocking revelation…
It is this type of fawning, empty adulation that irks me once I consider, not Dylan himself, however his idolaters. And maybe it is not that they’re extra absurdly devoted than the die-hard followers of David Bowie, Paul McCartney, or Taylor Swift, however that they maintain positions of authority that permit them to wield their fandom over the remainder of the world.
Possibly it is time for me to confess the true supply of my grudge—the unique offense that this newest announcement has introduced again to the floor. In October of 2016 Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami was anticipated to win the Nobel Prize in literature, and I used to be ready to have some blended emotions about it—he is an excellent author, however I do not love his work the way in which many do—however then the Nobel committee threw a curveball and introduced their number of Bob Dylan…for literature!
Pictured: an precise literary determine
I do not care how a lot you like Bob Dylan—his work is just not literature. The committee lauded Dylan for “having created new poetic expressions throughout the nice American music custom.” In different contexts, he has been positioned alongside timeless poets similar to Keats and Rimbaud, however as that very same Guardian article (a protection of the Nobel choice) factors out, his lyrics aren’t almost as efficient when allowed to fend for themselves on the web page—”the phrases and the music can’t be separated.” One other strategy to say that’s that his lyrics aren’t really poetry—or at the very least not nice poetry.
In the event that they actually wished to present Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize, they may have created a brand new prize for music, or scrapped the literature prize in favor of a broader class of “the humanities.” Hell, they may have given him a peace prize for his protest songs, and he would have made extra sense than lots of the recipients of that award. However literature? They could as properly have given him the prize in medication for therapeutic all our hearts.
His songs don’t transcend music, and his individual doesn’t transcend humanity. He isn’t a god, and it doesn’t take six individuals to painting him on display. Hopefully Going Electrical, when it comes out, will humanize Dylan, quite than including to his overblown delusion. Till that point, I will be over right here bathing in all of the scrumptious hate this text is about to obtain.
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