American Writers, Supplement XVIII by Jay Parini

By Jay Parini

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The aforementioned line, “Je est un autre,” topped Haynes’s single-page film proposal to which Dylan granted his rare approval, and one of the film’s seven versions of Dylan is actually named Arthur Rimbaud. Haynes clearly understood the importance of Rimbaud to Dylan’s overarching aesthetic, and he understood as well that recognition of this importance would be invaluable in gaining Dylan’s trust, therefore gaining a green light for the film. press, including Shelton, with whom he shared a friendship and to whom he owed a considerable debt for effectively introducing his music to the world, as an occasion for renewing control of the details of his life, revising those details wherever necessary, introducing fresh contradictions wherever strategically productive.

There is perhaps no living person of whom so much has been written whose biography remains so inveterately—and enchantingly—elusive. In Writing Dylan: The Songs of a Lonesome Traveler, Larry David Smith argues that “Bob Dylan” is the name for a vast, deliberate, and ultimately coherent artistic vision authored by Robert Zimmerman over the course of nearly a half-century and that, in essence, if Dylan is a poet he is also his own poem. Although somewhat overstated in its thesis—no less than in its style—Smith’s book supplies some instruction for examining the circumstances of Dylan’s past: before a certain point, an elaborate pattern of biographical misinformation gives way to an equally elaborate confusion; after that point, Dylan seems to have been so purposeful, so precise, and yet so unpredictable in weaving and stitching and patching the fabric of his identity that one struggles to distinguish between the genuine individual and his adopted roles, between, that is, the person and the performance.

His discussion of literary influences in Chronicles gives pride of place to a single syntactically intricate line from Arthur It was in Minneapolis that Dylan was introduced to the songs of Woody Guthrie. Guthrie’s impact on Dylan cannot be overstated. Dylan began playing almost exclusively Guthrie compositions in his coffeehouse performances around the folk-oriented “Dinkytown” section of Minneapolis. In the fall of 1960 he read Guthrie’s autobiographical Bound for Glory (1943), which quickly replaced On the Road as his touchstone for American seeking and dreaming.

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