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Sara Dylan & the Rise of the Anti-Zen in Seventies Bob How Weak was the Foundation

http://swarmuth.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/bob-dylan-mermaid-and-hemingwaycode.html Bob Dylan, the Mermaid and the Hemingway Code


Quanta August 17, 2012 11:04 AM Scott - we are all still sitting looking at Dylan up there in the front row in Mr. Rolfzen's class, right. A mighty fine place to be. Thanks for pointing out Bob is all Zen while others sell him as all Guru. What a relief you don't look back and lose the plot.

A nonsensical peace of Zen-koan paradox if ever there was one: a false dichotomy unworthy of its smug knowledgeable unwillingness either to argue or to judge. Love Minus Zero, No Limit (Bringing It All Back Home, 1965):
My love winks, she does not bother She knows too much to argue or to judge

We Better Talk This Over (Street Legal, 1978):


But I dont think its liable to happen Like the sound of one hand clappin The vows that we kept are now broken and swept Neath the bed where we slept

When You Gonna Wake Up (Slow Train Coming, 1979):


Spiritual advisors and gurus to guide your every move Instant inner peace and every step you take has got to be approved

Notwithstanding Dylan love and theft of phrases for his lyrics way predating the album of that name in 2001, code in the lyrics is a term Dylan himself used in a 1978 Rolling Stone interview (published 16 November) with Jonathan Cott of the influence he attributed to his art teacher Norman Raeben in Blood on the Tracks. Now that albums implicitly Messianic bird on the horizon ornithology was a precursor to that of Infidels Dylan: Im just like that bird, singing just for you; feel just like that rooster; parrot that talks; bird that flew; bluebird sing.
Everybody agrees that that was pretty different, and whats different about it is theres a code in the lyrics and also theres no sense of time.

The nightingales code; the Hemingway code? Even Slow Train Coming has its own code.

In Precious Angel (Slow Train Coming, 1979) Dylan turned, in a most Dylanesque twist, from his precious angel, the black actress Mary Alice Artes, to address Zen Sara Dylan his ex-wife the white not-so-Jewish gypsy of the Lowlands (whose real ethnic identity Howard Sounes has repeatedly sought to conceal, as self-appointed anti-Born Again religious guardian of Jesse and Jakob Dylan, behind the Jewish-Judaism cloak):
Sister, lemme tell you about a vision I saw You were drawing water for your husband, you were suffering under the law You were telling him about Buddha, you were telling him about Mohammed in the same breath You never mentioned one time the Man who came and died a criminals death

Oh, Sara Dylan, where do you pitch your tent? Draw your water? Certainly not from John 4. I believe in Sara Dylan when white turn to black. Robert Shelton on Sara Dylan in No Direction Home the Life and Music of Bob Dylan:
She had a Romany spirit, seeming to be wise beyond her years, knowledgeable about magic and folklore and traditional wisdom.

P B Shelley in The Revolt of Islam Canto Ten:


XXXI And Oromaze, Joshua, and Mahomet, Moses and Buddh, Zerdusht, and Brahm, and Foh, A tumult of strange names, which never met Before, as watchwords of a single woe, Arose ; each raging votary 'gan to throw Aloft his armd hands, and each did howl 'Our God alone is God!--and slaughter now Would have gone forth, when from beneath a cowl A voice came forth, which pierced like ice through every soul.

Michiko Kakutani, reviewing Dylans Lyrics (1985):


Whether Mr. Dylan's near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1966 was a factor, or whether he was simply unable to sustain his early brilliance, there is a distinct falling off in the lyric writing of later years, despite much vaunted talk of ''comebacks'' with the ''New Morning'' album (in 1970), ''Blood on the Tracks'' (1974) and ''Desire'' (1975). Nearly all the lyrics from ''Street Legal'' (1978) have a mannered, almost mechanical glibness that register, at most, as fleeting conceits in the reader's mind - for instance, ''Loyalty, unity, epitome, rigidity. / You turn around for one real last glimpse of Camille'' - and the ones from Mr. Dylan's subsequent born-again Christian phase seem strangely rhetorical and impersonal, like pastiches of another person's sermons gussied up with a few stray metaphors and images. Most of the tunes from ''Infidels'' (1983), too, are tinged with a moralistic, as opposed to moral, tone, though the reader-listener is never quite sure what Mr. Dylan is attempting to say, so intent does he seem in using his verbal gifts to obscure rather than reveal. Like Hemingway's late work, the more flaccid songs on this album often read like bad self-

parodies of the artist's finest work: A natural instinct for the prophetic has turned portentous and heavy-handed; a nimble way with irony has congealed into a pose. What is one to make of lines like, ''Let's try to get beneath the surface waste, girl, / No more booby traps and bombs, / No more decadence and charm''? Or, ''What has he done to wear so many scars? / Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?'' Reading such verse, one begins to worry that in all his years of trying on and discarding personae, Mr. Dylan has somehow managed to misplace both a great gift and an essential sense of self, that his remarkable facility for assimilating new attitudes and styles has left an emptiness at the center.

Like pastiches of another person's sermons gussied up with a few stray metaphors and images? The evangelistically fervent Scott Marshall in Restless Pilgrim: the Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan (2002) p 102:
Midway through the year [1990], Dylans faith in God was evident in a letter he sent to Jamie Brown, the editor and founder of Sister 2 Sister, a magazine for emerging black female executives in the music industry.

Precious Angel:
Shine your light, shine your light on me Shine your light, shine your light on me Shine your light, shine your light on me Ya know I just couldnt make it by myself Im a little too blind to see

Ken Brooks shines, in a twisting-around most blinding kind of way, his, light not water, in the syntactically challenging Bob Dylan: the Man in Him (1999):
The truth is in our heart, Bobs vision. Sister Mary Alice Artes, Bobs advisor, was explaining Buddha and Mohammed but not Jesus. To understand and be sure then the seeker must learn of other religions.

The NME is subtle? Perhaps Ken, whoever he was working for, albeit not a music magazine (as far as I know), is a spiritual advisor to the Vineyard these days? How be it Brooks is deceived (spiritually, and Michael Gray is deceived grammatically and spiritually as per 2 Kings 17)? John 4 New International Version (NIV) Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacobs well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, Will you give me a drink? 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]) 10 Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. 11 Sir, the woman said, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock? 13 Jesus answered, Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. 15 The woman said to him, Sir, give me this water so that I wont get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water. 16 He told her, Go, call your husband and come back. 17 I have no husband, she replied. Jesus said to her, You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true. 19 Sir, the woman said, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem. 21 Woman, Jesus replied, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. 25 The woman said, I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. 26 Then Jesus declared, I, the one speaking to youI am he.

Dylan to black actress and one-time live-in girlfriend Mary Alice Artes (poststructurally of course):
Precious angel, under the sun, How was I to know you'd be the one To show me I was blinded, to show me I was gone How weak was the foundation I was standing upon?

How weak was the foundation of Zen that Dylan was standing upon. Biographer Anthony Scaduto:

"Bob needed Sarah very desperately," a close friend from that period says. "His head was all screwed around from the pressures, the fame, that whole insane thing that was happening to him, and Sarah represented some solid ground. She was mystical, into Zen and all, and seemed to have found her own head and maybe seemed to have some answers from Zen, and Dylan needed that, Also, she was sort of Zen-egoless, She didn't try to get into Bob's head the way people always do, because that's not where it was at for her. And Bob needed that kind of unthreatening woman. She seemed to be able to give herself over to him and his special needs. Besides which, she is very beautiful and very tender."

From one of Dylans gospel raps: Montreal 22 April 1980, I think:


Thank you. I'm leaning on that solid rock, and you need that solid rock. There's a form of medium called Zen. They got a way of twisting things all around, make what's good seem bad and what's bad seem good. I was talking to a girl the other day who just lives from orgasm to orgasm. I know that's a strange thing, but that's what she's said to do because of these so-called modern times. But she's not satisfied.

Idiot Wind (Blood on the Tracks, 1975):


Now everything's a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped, What's good is bad, what's bad is good, you'll find out when you reach the top You're on the bottom.

From Al Aronowitzs My Dylan Papers, from subsequently excised material that his family now dont want you to see:
From the start, Sara parried Bob's tyranny with graciousness. Bob ran hot and cold and he was a succession of either Jekylls and Hydes or heckles and jives, but I've never seen him treat another human as civilly, as respectfully, as lovingly and as humanly as he treated Sara. In the years following his motorcycle accident, Bob acted like a romantic cornball when he was with her. More and more, he depended on her advice as if she were his astrologer, his oracle, his seer, his psychic guide. He would rely on her to tell him the best hour and the best day to travel. For me, they were the ideal loving couple. They flirted with each other constantly. Their kitchen-talk, table-talk, parlor-talk and general dialogue impressed me as certainly hipper than any I've ever heard in any soap opera or sitcom. To me, this dialogue was by the Shakespeare of his time and his wife. She was always just as hip as he was. Bob and Sara put on an impressive show for me, a drama full of romance and wisecracks and everyday common sense. I felt proud to be the audience. Proud and privileged, too, because I knew what any member of the army of Bob's fans would have been willing to pay for a ticket to this show. Bob's fans were sitting on the edges of their seats waiting for the curtain to go up. The curtain of mist which Bob had drawn between himself and the world. What was going on behind it?

But even better still, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. Jakob DylanRolling Stone 762 (June 12, 1997):
It made great art, but there were five children caught in the emotional flood -- one daughter and three sons the Dylans had together, and a daughter from Sara's earlier marriage. Mercifully, the court records were sealed, but for Jakob, there are other documents that echo those times. "If I hear [an upbeat song like] 'Tombstone Blues,'

I'm having a good time with everybody else," Jakob says. "Those other songs on Nashville Skyline and Blood on the Tracks . . . those are my parents talking." Nashville Skyline was cut in 1969, when his parents were making bread and babies - Jakob, to be precise -- in Woodstock, N.Y. Jakob says he hears his parents in its love songs and in Blood's accusations and laments. He is certain that although strangers danced and made love to them, those songs comprise a fathoms-deep repository of his family history.

Couldnt hear a robin sing: Robert Graves. Further down:


Come to think of it, Jakob has never asked his dad whether "Forever Young" was indeed inspired by Jakob's birth. He figures it was a rumor some Dylan freak cooked up, since clearly it's a song written to all well-loved children. And he can always listen to it fondly. Not so with, say, "Idiot Wind," from Blood on the Tracks, a song so rueful and vituperative that it's been compared to the poet Allen Ginsberg's epic "Howl." "Idiot Wind" deals with gossip, backstabbing, shattered faith. "In a lot of ways, that's the only snapshot I have, because I don't have a great memory of that time," Jakob says. "A lot of random images might strike my memory hearing it. Those are my parents talking, and if I want to go to that place -- I mean, how often do you want to depress yourself? Sometimes it goes in one ear and out the other. Sometimes, depending on my state, those songs can bother me."

Source: http://www.angelfire.com/music2/wallflowers725/rsarticle.html Wilfrid Mellers in A darker shade of pale: A backdrop to Bob Dylan (1984), p 220, says Oh, Sister:
. . . shedding its evangelical tinge, emerges as a Tex-Mex number acrid in sonority and remorseless in tangoed rhythm, with gibbering and wailing voices off. The effect is sinister, perhaps because the song seems to have become a conflict between Dylans Christian Father and his sad-eyed lady earth goddess. Some such tension is latent in many of the gospel songs; indeed the fundamental ambiguity which makes Dylans work so rewarding is precisely this matriarchal-patriarchal synthesis or reconciliation.

What reconciliation? Greil Marcus wrote somewhere of Mellers that this is a confused and confusing book. And as for where, Im too confused to care. Oh, Sister (Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy):
Oh, sister, when I come to lie in your arms You should not treat me like a stranger Our Father would not like the way that you act And you must realize the danger Oh, sister, am I not a brother to you And one deserving of affection? And is our purpose not the same on this earth To love and follow His direction?

With regard to evangelical tinge, compare John Gibbens -- again in The Nightingales Code: A poetic study of Bob Dylan (2001) pp 325-326 on Desire, Saved, Saved and being saved:
The single most strongly stressed word on the record was later the title of Dylans second Christian album, and its striking that it should receive such strong emphasis four years beforehand. In OH SISTER, Emmylou Harris and he draw the word out on a long unaccompanied note:

Gibbens emphasizes the word saved to make his interesting point:


We grew up together From the cradle to the grave We died and were reborn And then mysteriously s-a-v-e-d

How would someone with a heart like an ocean so mysterious and dark gimme some lovin 1978-world-tour style, which lifted its rearrangement for Oh, Sister from Steve Winwood? 2012 Paul Kirkman, Messianic Dylanologist. All rights reserved Books of The Times; Times Are A-Changin' Date: November 23, 1985, Saturday, Late City Final Edition Section 1; Page 16, Column 1; Cultural Desk Byline: By MICHIKO KAKUTANI Lead: LYRICS. 1962-1985. By Bob Dylan. 524 pages. Illustrated by the author. Alfred A. Knopf. $21.95. ''You don't necessarily have to write to be a poet,'' Bob Dylan declared once. ''Some people work in gas stations and they're poets. I don't call myself a poet because I don't like the word. I'm a trapeze artist.'' Like so many of the gnomic, contradictory pronouncements he would make over the years, that statement attests to a decidedly equivocal attitude on Mr. Dylan's part - in this case, toward literature and the whole literary dstablishment.Clearly the author of ''Tarantula'' - a melange of surreal nonsequiturs and stream-of-consciousness ramblings vaguely packaged as a novella - had always cherished certain literary ambitions, and over the years he had appropriated literary techniques with the same undiscriminating urgency as he had absorbed various musical styles. While too much was doubtless made of this during the 1960's, when college students routinely wrote theses dissecting his debt to Rimbaud, Celine and Whitman, the fact remains that his early work did help, in those formative years, make people aware of the possibilities of rock-and-roll as a potential forum for serious discussion, as a potential meeting ground for high and popular art. Text: This new volume - whose appearance roughly coincides with that of ''Biograph,'' a five-record Dylan retrospective from Columbia Records -offers a complete text of Mr. Dylan's lyrics, plus liner notes and other random jottings.

Filled with dazzling, unwinding images and a variety of characters - mythic eroes and villains, as well as the ''luckless, the abandoned an' forsaked'' - Mr. Dylan's songs probably translate more readily to the page than most. Still, it's unfair and a little confusing to treat any song lyric, however ''poetic'' in form, as something merely printed on a page. Mr. Dylan's music and vocal style, after all, have probably been as influential as his writing, and if his raspy whine of a voice has forced listeners to pay added attention to his words, his lyrics nonetheless tend to be diminished when they appear in book form, divorced from the sensual, emotive matrix of the music. 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. Even on the page, though, the earlier songs - from the acoustic numbers in ''The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan'' (1963) through the electric ones in ''Blonde on Blonde'' (1966) -evince a wild, unaccommodated love of language, combined with a seemingly unconscious ability to spin out images that are at once evocative and allusive. It was during this period that Mr. Dylan wrote such famous protest anthems as ''Masters of War,'' ''A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall'' and ''With God on Our Side,'' and it was during this same period that he helped redefine the boundaries of the ''love'' song with such unsentimental, even bitter cuts as ''Don't Think Twice, It's All Right,'' ''It Ain't Me, Babe'' and ''Positively 4th Street.'' Whether Mr. Dylan's near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1966 was a factor, or whether he was simply unable to sustain his early brilliance, there is a distinct falling off in the lyric writing of later years, despite much vaunted talk of ''comebacks'' with the ''New Morning'' album (in 1970), ''Blood on the Tracks'' (1974) and ''Desire'' (1975). Nearly all the lyrics from ''Street Legal'' (1978) have a mannered, almost mechanical glibness that register, at most, as fleeting conceits in the reader's mind - for instance, ''Loyalty, unity, epitome, rigidity. / You turn around for one real last glimpse of Camille'' - and the ones from Mr. Dylan's subsequent bornagain Christian phase seem strangely rhetorical and impersonal, like pastiches of another person's sermons gussied up with a few stray metaphors and images. Most of the tunes from ''Infidels'' (1983), too, are tinged with a moralistic, as opposed to moral, tone, though the reader-listener is never quite sure what Mr. Dylan is attempting to say, so intent does he seem in using his verbal gifts to obscure rather than reveal. Like Hemingway's late work, the more flaccid songs on this album often read like bad self-parodies of the artist's finest work: A natural instinct for the prophetic has turned portentous

and heavy-handed; a nimble way with irony has congealed into a pose. What is one to make of lines like, ''Let's try to get beneath the surface waste, girl, / No more booby traps and bombs, / No more decadence and charm''? Or, 'What has he done to wear so many scars? / Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?'' Reading such verse, one begins to worry that in all his years of trying on and discarding personae, Mr. Dylan has somehow managed to misplace both a great gift and an essential sense of self, that his remarkable facility for assimilating new attitudes and styles has left an emptiness at the center. Sobering as such intimations may be, they hardly make for an assessment of Mr. Dylan's career: Nothing, certainly, can diminish the achievement of the early songs, and even the weakest of the later albums demonstrate intermittent flashes of verbal inspiration. What's more, ''Empire Burlesque'' (1985) contains at least one fine song, ''Tight Connection to My Heart,'' that not only attests to Mr. Dylan's resilience and stamina as a songwriter but also promises better things to come.

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