“Once you own Bob Dylan’s highchair, it becomes easy to rationalize any other purchase”. So writes David Kinney, in his recently released book The Dylanologists. And I suppose it is true.
Last night, at a party at the conference I’m attending, someone asked me if I had become a “huge Dylan fan” while doing this project. I said that I didn’t think that I had, that I still sort of saw this as a research foray rather than a calling or a compulsion. But I had to admit that I can feel the compulsion starting to come on. When I turn the page onto a new week, like 1981 last week, and realize that even though they were all recorded, I’m not going to be able to listen to all those dozens of shows Dylan performed that year. What, I wonder, will it mean if I listen to the wrong one? What if I miss out on the best thing? The sickness lurks in the background.
Kinney’s book looks at the people who have the full-scale sickness. When Zimmy’s, the Dylan-themed restaurant in Hibbing, MN, was put up for sale earlier this year I joked about buying it (to the people on Facebook who thought I was really doing it: I’m sorry!). I haven’t thought about traveling there, and I haven’t thought about going to the Dylan-fest there (this weekend!), but I sort of am starting to get the people who do. After all, I have opinions on which are the good 1981 shows. I really do!
The Dylanologists is great so far, but I’ve only read a very little bit. I’m trying to save it. Savour it. 1982 has so little Bob in it. One concert, only a few songs. I haven’t even listened to that concert yet, because – and this is where I know I’m in trouble – I don’t want to waste the opportunity to listen to it for the first time. The sickness moves closer.
So, I’m going to ration what little Dylan I have for this year. My understanding is that he retreated for a while in the summer of 1982 in an attempt to reconnect with his kids, taking them back to Minnesota, where, every year, people gather at Zimmy’s in the hopes that he’ll come round.
One thought on “The Dylanologists (1)”
Your one-week = one-year chronological-order parameters make this somewhat like scholarly-research-as-performance-piece (or an OuLiPo project). If you were researching a a standard academic topic cold, even if you decided to read the primary texts in chronological order, you’d almost certainly read/absorb the secondary materials as they came to hand (or even reverse-chronological order–see who the recent people all cite, then read them, then read who THEY all cite, etc.). I could easily foresee you coming out of this project as a Dylan fan to pretty much the same degree you were before, but having discovered more stuff you like and with a much more complete understanding of why you like the parts that you like.
I still depending on you for a playlist of “if you don’t buy the album you should hear these specific songs” at the end of the year.