Some more Dylanology f’ya.

After the sudden spurt of Dylanology* downscreen, I’ve just finished Toby Thompson’s ‘Positively Main Street’. Like George Melly’s Revolt Into Style, it positively fizzes with contemporary history, someone standing back and wondering at events recently passed and currently passing. Amazon suggests it hasn’t been reissued, but I picked it up second hand and well-thumbed from one of those booksellers with windy stairs. Essentially, it’s the age-old New Journo story of Toby (early twenties) travelling up to The North Country to uncover Zimmerman’s roots, just as Nashville Skyline is released. Toby tracks down family members and local history and falls deeply for the girl who inspired Girl From The North Country. Her name is ‘Echo’. Natch.

But, for our present purposes, perhaps it can shed some light on lit-critting Dylan. Handily, for the purposes of mystique at least, the book was written when Dylan was locking himself away in upstate New York with a family and a bible. So, trying to track down Bob in Hibbing, Minnesota was always gonna prove a little squiffy. But, when combined with Thompson’s wide-eyed fan-ism, this allows at least some semblance of insight.

Towards the end of the book, after two hundred pages of family digging, we get something like The Point. Musing on the efficacy of this line of endeavour, Thompson suggests explicitly something that he’s been banging on about implicitly since page one. He offers that the interesting thing – the useful thing – isn’t the ‘how?’ but the ‘why?’ and that the ‘why?’ was the one thing Bob could keep private. The ‘why?’, for Toby, was the ‘imagination’.

Perhaps this was something lacking from Hitch or (seemingly) Ricks: the understanding with any person, let alone any pop star, that the bit they pour dry ice over is, by implication at least, the interesting bit. The ability to obscure and to self-mythologise is at the root of any autobiography, of any artistry. And, of course, this is especially true of Bob Dylan, with his crytpic, quasi-referencing poetry and fairy-tale backstory. Dylan is simultaneosuly a Romantic and a post-modernist: obscuring for effect and obscuring cos that’s all there is.

So, in this healthy vein of looking upon his works and (Andrew) Marvelling, perhaps the amateurishly professional Dylanologists should see themselves as more priestess than oracle. The oh-so-cute “subliterary games” that Hitch plays with Salman Rushdie aren’t enough, let alone the uberliterary games Ricks plays with himself. To use litcrit on the litcritters, perhaps New Criticism should be forgotten in favour of a po-mo deconstructionist bent, flavoured with intense superfan enthusiasm**.

*Have any other pop icon’s grown an ‘-ology?’. Visions of Maureen Lipman on the phone – ‘My Ringo’s got an -ology’ – of course.

**It’s just struck me that could serve as an adequate explanation of The Joy of Blog. I knew I’d get there eventually.