“Was That Some Kind of Joke?”

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese Revisited

Joan Baez/Bob Dylan: Ken Regan/Estate of Ken Regan/Ormond Yard Press
Sam Shepard, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac: Ken Regan/Estate of Ken Regan/Ormond Yard Press
“We came to the pyramids all embedded in ice”
Joni Mitchell, Roger McGuinn, Bob Dylan; Ken Regan/Estate of Ken Regan/Ormond Yard Press
William S. Burroughs: Photograph: Paul Natkin/WireImage

Dylan slightly reworked four of Kerouac’s phrases for his song. Kerouac wrote, ‘They sin by lifelessness,’ which Dylan turned into ‘Her sin is her lifelessness.’ ‘Cabinets with memories in them’ became ‘memories in a trunk.’ ‘The perfect image of a priest’ became ‘a perfect image of a priest.’ ‘Get his letter’ became ‘received your letter.’ Historical figures that were in Kerouac’s book appear in Dylan’s song: Romeo, Einstein, Noah, and the Phantom of the Opera. Kerouac writes about a hunchback; Dylan name-drops the Hunchback of Notre Dame.


…as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who’s been reading him lately? And who’s pushed him to the forefront? Who’s been making you read him? And ask his descendants what they think of the hoopla. And if you think it’s so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get. Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It’s an old thing — it’s part of the tradition. It goes way back. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil motherfuckers can rot in hell.

As if playing electric guitar and alluding to the work of an obscure Civil War poet weren’t enough, Dylan stirred up controversy again with showings of his paintings at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City. “The Asia Series” was criticized for Dylan’s duplicating of famous, and not-so-famous, photographs, some sourced from someone else’s Flickr account lol. And, for Dylan fans, the fun is only just beginning. In 2016, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, which, in itself, created a media firestorm, with many scholars and literary figures skeptical about Dylan’s qualifications for the Nobel as a songwriter and not as a “poet,” and debating the merits of Dylan’s winning the prize over someone of true literary stature (as if, somehow, the “Mr. Tambourine Man” line “But for the sky there are no fences facing” doesn’t qualify as “literary”). Dylan’s award caused some to go as far as to prophecy this as the death of literature! So, it must have provided a sense of vindication for naysayers when Dylan’s Nobel speech was later discovered to not only include bits and pieces of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, but also, in truly enigmatic Dylan fashion, selections from the SparkNotes version of Moby Dick. Again, hilarious. And postmodern. And art.

Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac: Ken Regan/Estate of Ken Regan/Ormond Yard Press

Magic the Cat shares a birthday with his owner and currently resides in Athens, Georgia. His favorite film remains Wings of Desire.

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