Monday, August 28, 2006

Jonathan Lethem on Bob Dylan

The current issue of Rolling Stone, on newsstands until September 7th, features the novelist Jonathan Lethem's interview with Bob Dylan.

Lethem writes of Dylan's new release:

Modern Times [Dylan's thirty-first studio album], like Love and Theft and Time Out of Mind before it, seems to survey a broken world through the prism of a heart that's worn and worldly, yet decidedly unbroken itself. "I been sitting down studying the art of love/I think it will fit me like a glove," he states in "Thunder on the Mountain," the opening song, a rollicking blues you've heard a million times before and yet which magically seems to announce yet another "new" Dylan. "I feel like my soul is beginning to expand," the song declares. "Look into my heart and you will sort of understand."

What we do understand, if we're listening, is that we're three albums into a Dylan renaissance that's sounding more and more like a period to put beside any in his work.

There's a fine passage in the article where the writer in Lethem comes out:

Dylan's cadences take on the quality of an impromptu recitation, replete with internal rhyme schemes, such that when I later transcribe this tape I'll find myself tempted to set the words on the page in the form of a lyric. "I knew this time it wouldn't be futile writing something I really love and thought dearly of, and then gettin' in the studio and having it be beaten up and whacked around and come out with some kind of incoherent thing which didn't have any resonance. With that, I was awake. I felt freed up to do just about anything I pleased."


A sizable excerpt from the Rolling Stone article is available here.

Jonathan Lethem is the author of five novels, including Gun, With Occasion Music, and Girl in Landscape. His novel Motherless Brooklyn, was named Novel of the Year by Esquire and won The National Book Critics Circle Award and the Salon Book Award. He is also the author of the story collection, The Wall of the Eye and the novella This Shape We're In. He edited The Vintage Book of Amnesia, guest-edited The Year's Best Music Writing 2002, and was the founding fiction editor of Fence Magazine. His writings have appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, McSweeney's, and many other periodicals. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Thanks to Friend of the Blog "Cochise" for alerting me to the interview.

--Marshal Zeringue