Flaskaland
Saturday, June 28, 2003
 
Summer non-fiction reading advisos from the Guardian

Do You, Mr Jones? edited by Neil Corcoran (Pimlico, £10)

"Something is happening here / But you don't know what it is, / Do you, Mister Jones?" sang Bob Dylan in 1965. Braving the charge of proving him still correct, a gaggle of academics and poets has contributed critical essays to this volume. One earnest piece contains the pseudoanalytic claim: "The majority of the songs on Time Out of Mind confirm the picture of an alienated observer locked into his own obsessive pattern of social withdrawal"; another begins with the alarming statement: "I have characterised Dylan's many references to the railroads in his songs according to the schema of Wolfgang Schivelbusch, the cultural historian of train travel..." While the academics pretend the songs are just texts, the poets think of sound and effect. Lavinia Greenlaw discusses the useful laziness of Dylan's phrasing; Simon Armitage recounts his gradual conversion but wonders why Joni Mitchell isn't "on the syllabus" too. Best is Paul Muldoon, who just writes a poem. SP



 




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