Archive for the ‘Bob Dylan’ Tag

Object 6: The Trial by Franz Kafka, 1956   Leave a comment

It's so old you can hardly see the title which is embossed in gold on the green fabric.

It’s so old you can hardly see the title which is embossed in gold on the green fabric.

This copy of The Trial belonged to one of my mentors, Gene Dawson, whom I wrote about, inadequately, I’m afraid, earlier on this blog. (Please see Mentors Series 2: Gene Dawson, September, 2012.)

When I began this series on the objects in my apartment that tell my life story, I asked the hypothetical (hopefully) question, “If your house was on fire and you could only take one object, what would it be?” One of my bookish friends asked me specifically which book would I take in the face of that same all-consuming fire; my answer would be this copy of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, the Modern Library edition from 1956, coincidentally the year I was born.

I have read this copy of the book once. I have also read, several times now, the Schocken Books edition of 1968, which you would think would be the same, but contains some subtle differences.  Both editions use the Willa and Edwin Muir translation, but in this edition the text has been revised by E.M. Butler.

So I suppose it was Butler who changed the famous opening sentence from “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning,” to “Someone must have traduced Joseph K . . .”

Why would he do that? Did he think that was better? Traduced? Really?

As we all know, there are many different kinds of books and many different approaches to reading them. These days, for example, I am indulging in a bit of summer reading, a guilty pleasure, with Inferno by Dan Brown. I feel kind of cheap and sleazy reading this. I didn’t even buy the book, I didn’t want it in my place, so I put it on my Kobo instead. Still, he’s got me hooked and I am learning a lot about Dante and Florence and the Divine Comedy and all the rest of it.

So there’s summer reading, which is allowed. And there is skimming and there is analytical reading and there is devotional reading to name but a few. I would like to propose a new category of reading. Unlike most reading experiences which I would call reader-based reading, there is an entirely different way that some of us read, those of us who are writers, and I would call this writer-based reading.

This type of reading is not recreational or escapist, in fact it’s part of the work we do, and we do work, even though some people are convinced that we really don’t and the words just appear by magic in our word processors as we sleep at night.

Writer-based reading is actually hard work. What we’re looking for as we engage in this exercise is not so much ideas – hopefully we have those, although again, many people seem to be convinced that we don’t, so we often hear things like “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for you!” or “Here’s a really good idea for a play!” implying that all of our own ideas for plays thus far have not been very good at all.

In writer-based reading, one could say we are looking for examples of the very best technique to express things in a way that will resonate as deeply and hopefully universally as possible. And then these things we steal. By the time we actually employ them, no one would dream what the source was, because it’s not so much a source in terms of content as in form.

For example, is it possible that Bob Dylan had read The Trial, and when he began his song “The idiot Wind” with the line, “Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press?” it was actually a veiled and probably unconscious reference to the novel, even though he himself may not have been aware of it? We will probably never know unless Mr. Dylan happens to read this post and lets us know, if he even knows himself.  (That’s the beauty of the internet, he could.)

The point of writer-based reading is that we engage in the exercise like kleptomaniacs in a dollar store. We take this, that and the other thing with no real sense of purpose other than the fact that we like it, it touches something inside us, we think it might be of use somewhere down the line.  And yet, by the time we do use it, if we ever do, we have probably long forgotten where is came from in the first place. It’s not plagiarism, it’s literary recycling and it’s been happening forever, with its most famous practitioner being William Shakespeare.

The book, then, becomes a workbook. It shows evidence of having been read interactively. Coming back to this specific copy of The Trial, Dawson was the best I have ever seen at this. In this sense he taught me how to read as a writer reads. I can’t show you every page, obviously (unless you want to buy me a glass of wine) but here’s a sampling of a few pages, complete with Dawson’s complex method of using paper clips to mark – well, who know what he was marking, or why?  (Of course, when I was a young student and in awe of my favourite professor, I too marked everything with paper clips, but I’m over that habit now. Mostly, I’m over it. Sometimes . . . Oh, never mind.)

Here’s a few sample pages. They are thumbnails so you can click on them to enlarge them.

And so it begins.

The first page. I love the illustrations.

Note the cigarette burns towards the bottom of both pages.

Note the cigarette burns towards the bottom of both pages.

Dawson was always trying to figure out the lapses in time precisely.

The last page.

The last page.

So you can see that this book is bound up in my mind with my journey of becoming a writer, and in this regard it truly is one of the objects I have around my that helps tell my story. Beyond theories of how we read, I love the book. It helps me through hard times, through trials of my own. Joesph K. is probably my literary hero.

Finally, in my search for the lyrics to “The Idiot Wind” I found this song that begins with the same line by the band James. There’s also a great version on YouTube of them doing this same song live at the Albert Hall. They are thought to be one of the most underrated bands of all time, so I am pleased to do my part to change that and share this video with you here. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading.

Posted July 7, 2013 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

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Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler in Calgary   6 comments

Taken by my friend Michele shortly before the security guards swarmed down on her.

Bob Dylan and his band and Mark Knopfler and his band performed at the Saddledome in Calgary last night and here are a few thoughts on that event . . .

I have seen Bob Dylan 4 times now, going back 10 years when I saw him at the Saddledome in Calgary with my friend Bob White. That was a great show, as I recall, and what I remember most vividly all these years later is Dylan’s virtuosity on the guitar. He was flanked then as he still is now by Charlie Sexsmith who is as good as they come. It was a one-two punch that I will never forget.

Most recently, I saw Bob Dylan and his band in Lethbridge this August. I wrote a blog post about that show in August, which you can access in the archive section of my blog to the left of this post. Nothing about Dylan and his band’s performance last night changed anything I wrote about the Lethbridge show.

The thing that stands out the most is Dylan’s engaging personality as it comes through in his performances these days. 10 years ago, he may have seemed more remote and less personable. At the Lethbridge performance, I found him to be surprisingly engaging and fun. I wondered if that was in part due to a smaller venue, but that was not the case. He was all of that and more in Calgary last night.

The playlist and the way the songs got played was not really different than it was two months ago. If anything, as the band goes on with this never-ending tour, they are more tight than ever. I would think if you know anything about North American culture over the last 50 years or so, you would think it worth while and money well spent to see the man who gave us “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” perform these iconic songs live and in person.

My friend Zenon took me to the concert in Lethbridge, and to last night’s concert as well. (He is a very good friend!) Even while we were in Lethbridge, we had heard that he had added Mark Knopfler to the card, and that Dylan and Knopfler would appear together in Calgary a few months hence, so Zenon decided we should see what that was all about.

At the time, and I suppose even going into last night’s concert, we weren’t sure how it worked, if MK would actually play with BD and his band, or if it would be a separate act.

Well, when you think of it, with Charlie Sexsmith as the lead guitarist in the BD band, where would MK fit in? He wouldn’t. So what we saw in Calgary and what you will see if you’re yet to catch them on this tour is an hour set by MK and his band followed by a slightly longer set by BD and his band.

I have seen MK before, when he came to Regina in the late 80’s with Dire Straights. It was one of the best concerts I have ever seen, and I was anxious to see MK in concert again.

He didn’t disappoint. (Except maybe for the British bloke near me who kept yelling out “Romeo and Juliet!” between songs.) With his amazingly versatile 8 piece band he laid out an hour of new and intricate and complex and decidedly Gaelic-sounding work. The virtuosity of all these musicians coupled with an amazing sense of ensemble playing made MK’s portion of the evening one of the greatest musical events I have witnessed in some time.

When it ended, and after the encore of the only song I recognized from MK’s earlier days, “So Far Away From Me,” I felt it was ending far too soon and I was left with that hollow feeling that the party was over and yet I still wanted more.

However, that feeling didn’t last too long. After all, the greatest poet of our generation was waiting in the wings . . .

Thanks for reading!

I took this, undetected by security!

Posted October 11, 2012 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

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Bob Dylan in Lethbridge Alberta   5 comments

I had a pesky security guard trying to make sure I wasn’t taking photos while two rows in front hundreds of people were taking photos with their phones. I hope Bob doesn’t mind that I’m posting this.

My friend Zenon and I drove down to Lethbridge on Saturday to catch Bob Dylan and his band. Lethbridge is a small Canadian city located in southern Alberta. It’s the heartland, actually, a small, tiny, sensible and scrubbed clean city in the heart of the Bible belt. Hardly the kind of place that you would expect to catch Mr. Dylan and friends, but if we have learned one thing about Bob Dylan over the decades, surely it is that we never know quite what to expect from him.

This was the third time I’ve seen Bob Dylan in concert, going back a mere ten years ago when I saw him in Calgary with my friend and long time Dylan fan Bob White. (I say “mere” because this is just a sliver of the time that Dylan has been playing and performing. But you know that. In fact, a guy in the row ahead of us on Saturday was seeing him for the 24th time going back many many years!)

I guess the general impression out there is that while Bob Dylan may be one of the great poets and songwriters of our era, as a performer he has the reputation of being “uneven,” to be generous; remote, detached, disengaged, even cold are adjectives one hears typically used to describe a Dylan performance.

Well, maybe it’s something about the air in Lethbridge, or maybe he’s simply more comfortable in a smaller venue (he’s playing enough of them these days – the show in Lethbridge came a day after a show in Lloyminster, en route to Cranbrook, BC). Because say what you will, this was a very generous and even charismatic performance we witnessed on Saturday evening.

Zenon and I were sitting close enough to appreciate the real connection between Dylan and his band and the audience, especially when some of the audience broke the barrier and stood on the floor at the front of the stage. There was a constant connection from that point on, and we really came away from the experience feeling we somehow had had the chance to get to know Bob Dylan, especially his very sly yet ingratiating sense of humor.  To say that at times that he was vamping for us is hardly an exaggeration.

My friend Zenon, who is a disc jockey for a rock station (Q107 in Calgary), pointed out that some bands (ie The Rolling Stones) really stop moving forward at some point and start becoming cover bands for themselves. Easy enough to do when you have so many hits. I would assume that most people just want to hear their hits the same way they have been hearing them for decades now. Change is never good, in such a case.

Yet Bob Dylan is known for constantly tinkering with his own songs, some of them which are essentially the anthems of a generation, as they say. In fact, in concert, it can take a minute or so until you realize that the song you are listening to is actually something as iconic as “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The words give it away, but not the melody or in some cases even the rhythm. It’s all been made over again. It’s all now new. And if you can go with the fact that an artist would alter his own work, even when that work is an acknowledged masterpiece, then a Bob Dylan concert is the best place in the world to be.

If you can’t go with it, and want him to keep repeating the same old thing yet again, you might as well stay at home and play the disc. Or the vinyl if you have it. And you probably do.

Just don’t go to his concert hoping that he hasn’t moved on, because he has. I’m sharing a video at the end of this post to give a sense how one of his great songs has evolved over the years. It’s probably morphed many times since this was recorded. Why not? It’s his own damned song.

I admire him for it, for this restlessness. This was one of the best, and not to damn with faint praise, but most interesting concerts I have been to in a long time. Dylan was on and charming and the band was great. And in Lethbridge, no less!

What more could you ask for?

Thanks for reading . . . .

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