Tag Archives: grave

5 Quotes about Jack Kerouac’s Influence on Bob Dylan

19 Oct

portablebeatreaderbobdylan

So you may have heard that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize.

For Literature.

At first, no one could get ahold of him. Then, when they did, he rejected it. The initial news, though, set the literary community ablaze. He’s a singer. A songwriter. Are lyricists worthy of literary awards?

Some said no. In The New York Times article “Why Bob Dylan Shouldn’t Have Gotten a Nobel,” Anna North wrote:

Yes, Mr. Dylan is a brilliant lyricist. Yes, he has written a book of prose poetry and an autobiography. Yes, it is possible to analyze his lyrics as poetry. But Mr. Dylan’s writing is inseparable from his music. He is great because he is a great musician, and when the Nobel committee gives the literature prize to a musician, it misses the opportunity to honor a writer.

 

Bob Dylan, Nobel laureate? It’s not so strange, really” was the headline from the editorial staff of the Los Angeles Times, which went on to say:

The permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awarded Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday, compared him to Homer and Sappho, and it’s a fact that great literature has its roots in lyrics that were set to music and transmitted from town to town and from generation to generation by a succession of minstrels, troubadours, cantors and choirs. And then records, radio and streaming services.

For me, it wasn’t all that shocking for Bob Dylan of all songwriters to have won a literary prize. Growing up, I knew very little of Bob Dylan. I knew that he was from Minnesota, like Prince, and like my mother. I knew he was a folk singer with a unique voice who’d famously brewed a storm when he went electric. And, I knew him as someone featured in the very first Beat book I ever bought — Ann Charter’s The Portable Beat Reader.

The Portable Beat Reader had included four pieces of Dylan’s in its pages:

  1. “Blowin’ in the Wind”
  2. “The Times They Are A-Changin'”
  3. “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”
  4. Tarantula (excerpt)

Ray Bremser, Jack Micheline, Peter Orlovsky, and Anne Waldman only got one a-piece. If Ann Charters and the editors at Penguin were any indication, Bob Dylan was as much a poet as other recognized poets.

 

The poets and writers of the Beat Generation encouraged Bob Dylan tremendously. The documentary Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder touches on this poignantly. Much has already been written extensively about Dylan’s literary influences, so here are just five quotes connecting Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac:

  1. “’I read On the Road in maybe 1959. It changed my life like it changed everyone else’s,’” said Bob Dylan via BobDylan.com
  2. “But it captures what Dylan cherishes in Jack Kerouac, who understood freedom in much the same way….” — Cass R. Sunstein wrote about Dylan’s “Desolation Row” in “Dylan soars past Whitman as the great American poet” in the Chicago Tribune 
  3. “’Someone handed me Mexico City Blues in St. Paul in 1959,’ Dylan told him. ‘It blew my mind.’ It was the first poetry he’d read that spoke his own American language, Dylan said—or so Ginsberg said he said.” — Sean Wilentz wrote in “Bob Dylan, the Beat Generation, and Allen Ginsberg’s America” in The New Yorker 
  4. “Dave Van Ronk, in discussing both Dylan’s literary filiations and his well-known intolerance of the sixties rock revolution, noted that ‘Bobby is very much a product of the beat generation.… You are not going to see any more like him.’ Dylan likened his songs of this period to the cut-ups of William Burroughs, and there are notable similarities between these songs and the writings of Jack Kerouac, especially the Neal Cassady-inspired Visions of Cody and On the Road—not only in their phrasings but also in Dylan’s whole persona, which seemed almost to be modeled on Dean Moriarty, the ‘holy goof,’ the ‘burning shuddering frightful angel.’” — wrote Mark Polizzotti in “On Bob Dylan’s Literary Influences” via LitHub
  5. “In the East, some wended their way up to Lowell, becoming pilgrims at his grave, often leaving notes, mementos, or an empty wine bottle or half-pint of whiskey in salute. Then, in 1975, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, in Lowell on Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour, made a trip to Kerouac’s grave, famously recorded in the film Renaldo and Clara. While Ginsberg rambles on about the famous graves he’s visited, Dylan is noticeably quiet as he ponders Kerouac’s brief dates and the ‘He honored life’ coda etched in the granite. ‘Is this what’s going to happen to you?’ asked Ginsberg, indicating Jack’s slab. ‘No,’ said Dylan, then just thirty-four. ‘I wanna be in an unmarked grave.’” — from John Suiter’s “Kerouac’s Lowell: A Life on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

You can watch the video of Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at Kerouac’s grave here.

For the connection between Homer and Jack Kerouac, go here.

 

Road Trip: Nightmare of a Trip

31 Oct

Happy Halloween!  I’ve been recounting some rather nightmarish road trip tales for you — the tour I booked not going all the way to Big Sur, the bus breaking down, not being able to stop and pick up 7 avocados for a dollar in Salinas, my road trip essentially going awry.  Oh, the horror!  I know, I know.  White girl problems.  But really it all just added up to be one semi-disastrous trip.  Here’s what I didn’t tell you:

  • my friend and I spoke on the phone about getting tix together, she sent me an email confirming the arrival time was okay, I booked my flight … and then she told me she wasn’t coming after all
  • my other friends had planned their trip in reverse of mine, arriving the day before the wedding and then staying a few days after I left, so I didn’t get to hang out with them apart from the wedding
  • the person who’s place I was supposed to crash at was sick so I had to book a last-minute hotel, which would’ve been fine except apparently there were several conferences going on that week so every hotel in the city of San Francisco was at least $400
  • my connecting flight was delayed, so then the shuttle I prebooked said it would only take me if I paid more money
  • the shuttle dropped me off at the hotel, sped away, and then I was left with the realization that the hotel had shut down for the night.  What kind of hotel shuts down??
  • I decided to take the BART on my way back to the airport at the end of my trip, drag all my luggage the 20 minutes from the hotel to the train, only to discuss mass transport doesn’t start running til 8am in SF.  I will miss my flight if I wait an hour for the BART to run.  I call the shuttle company; it won’t pick me up because I don’t have a reservation.
  • I get a cab.  The driver tells me it will cost $120 to get to the airport.  It’s that or miss my flight.
  • We get to the airport and can’t find my airline.  For some reason, it’s in the international flight section of the airport, even though I’m flying SFO to LGA.
  • I’m waiting for my flight to leave, when I get a call from my bank that they’re shutting my card down due to strange charges.

Okay, so my trip wasn’t the stuff of B horror movies.  It wasn’t the opening of I Know What You Did Last Summer, when a driver hits someone on the road and dumps their body in the ocean.  It wasn’t The Hitcher, where a young couple gives a ride to a hitchhiker and horror ensues.  It wasn’t The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where a group picks up a stranger on their way to gravesite and then are stalked by, well, a guy with a chainsaw and his cannibal family.  And it wasn’t Urban Legends, where a college coed is driving along and suddenly a guy pops up in the back seat!

See, back when Jack Kerouac was taking road trips in the 1940s and ’50s, hitchhiking was pretty commonplace.  It was never really the ideal or safest way to travel, but it wasn’t as scary as it is today.  Today, horror movies are moral tales that warn drivers to always  check the perimeter and interior of their car before getting in and to not pick up strangers.  Parents not only forbid kids to hitchhike but also have to warn them about getting too close to cars in general.  Currently in the area in which I grew up in New Jersey, there’s a man who’s been trying to lure kids into his car.  There have been at least 17 luring attempts in Bergen County recently, and some New Jersey towns are considering a Halloween curfew.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!  What’s your favorite horror movie road trip?