Laureate

There is singing, and then there is singing. Bob Dylan does singing.  Listen to  ‘House of the rising Sun’, on his very first album.

Malcolm Gladwell speaks of innovators, people who are always different.  They wear odd clothes in ways that others don’t and wouldn’t.  They start fads, but they don’t follow them.  They never follow the herd.  Whatever it is that makes most people want to be like others, and join in with others, they don’t have.  It is a life strategy.  Think about it.  Always being different avoids comparison.  You can win when only you are playing.

What others think about me, or feel about me, that’s so irrelevant.  Anymore than it is for me, when I go see a movie, say Wuthering Heights or something, and have to wonder what Lawrence Olivier is really like.”

This is Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan. He still insists on being him, whether you like it or not. He has a born focus  on his own, inner experience. With his trained skills of melody and lyric, he expresses what he finds there.  He wants no contrivance, no preconceived, or planned song. He doesn’t want us to understand him.  He doesn’t think we should try to understand him. He just wants us to listen to the songs.  “It’s all in the songs.”  Be open to what a song does for you, not what you are told to think it means, or what you think it is supposed to mean. Rather than think the song. . .feel it.

If a song moves, you, that’s all that’s important.  I don’t have to know what a song means.  I’ve written all kinds of things into my songs.  And I’m not going to worry about it – what it all means.”

Hey Mr. Tambourine man/ Play a song for me/Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship/My senses have been stripped/My hands can’t feel to grip/My toes too numb to step/wait only for my boot heels to be wandering/I’m ready to go anywhere/ I’m ready for to fade/Into my own parade/Cast your dancing spell my way/I promise to go under it.

I can write a song in a crowded room.  Inspiration can hit you anywhere.  It’s magic.  It really is beyond me.”

My songs are personal music, they’re not communal.  I wouldn’t want people singing along with me.  It would sound funny.  I’m not playing campfire meetings.”

My hearts in the highlands with the horses and hounds/Way up in the border country far from the towns/With the twang of the arrow and the snap of the bow/My heart’s in The highlands, can’t see any other way to go

“John Donne, the poet-priest who lived in the time of Shakespeare, wrote these words, ‘the Sestos and Abydos of her breasts.  Not of two lovers, but two loves, the nests’.  I don’t know what it means, either.  But it sounds good.  And you want your songs to sound good.” Nobel Lecture, 2017.

“I’m no poet. Poets drown in lakes.”

I am a Ghost

 

I don’t really know what the interior of anybody else is like – I often feel very fragmented, and as if I have a symphony of different voices, and voice overs, and factoids, going on all the time, and digressions on digressions…”  David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace was always Meta-thinking – thinking about thinking.  He could be very insightful, and engaging, and interesting, and yet also get lost in recursions and riddles of semantics, and in puzzles of grammar.

He lived inside his head.

He would talk about the “special sort of buzz” logic gave him, how often “a gorgeously simple solution to a problem you suddenly see, after half a notebook with gnarly attempted solutions, you about hear a click“.

Boredom was terrifying.  He would suffer severe writer’s block. He had this ever present, oppressive mental feeling of something not right, that he wasn’t really, somehow. . . him. . . a menacing, unconnected feeling inside.

Being a person felt like being a ghost.

Substance use gave him great RELIEF. Intoxication helped him feel whole.  He became addicted with a natural ease.

At a Kenyon College commencement, speaking to a literary audience of avid readers and writers, he tried to warn them about the dangers of the mental life:  be careful! mentation isn’t all it is cracked up to be! you can be a fish swimming in water, and not know what water is.  Stay grounded in simple truths.  Somehow they are really true.

The word despair is overused and banalized now but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously.  It’s close to what people call dread or angst, but it’s not these things, quite it’s more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable sadness of knowing I’m small and selfish and going, without a doubt, to die.  It’s wanting to jump overboard.”

Julian Jaynes famously noted that the mind of Achilles, in the Iliad – a mind solely and completely in the present – is very different from the mind of Odysseus in the Odyssey – a mind scheming to manipulate appearance and orchestrate the future. Sometime in antiquity, the human mind changed.  It may have been writing, and the emergence of the reading mind.  With reading, we grow the power of imagined experience.  With  some, like David Foster Wallace, it can go too far, it can be too much.

In his writing, his characters are not centered, his plots are disjointed. There is lack of structure, with endless digression and foot notes.  His writing is more psychiatric exposition than literature.  He does convey for us his lost, unmoored, painful experience of being. That is his sad contribution.

He waited two more days for an opportunity.  In the early evening on Friday, September 12, Wallace suggested that his wife go out to prepare for an opening…After she left, he went into the garage and turned on the lights.  He wrote her a two page note.  Then he crossed through the house to the patio, where he climbed onto a chair and hanged himself.”