Song and Dance Man

Watching No Direction Home, I thought Dylan’s response to questions branding him as “political” interesting. He claimed something to the effect that it isn’t political to support your friends or people you like against injustice. For most people, that is a fair definition of what politics is all about. Admitting the possibility that justice is relative, it seems as valid to argue that Tom Delay’s shuffling of funds was merely a case of “supporting his friends.”

However, I suppose that making the “strong argument stronger” doesn’t garner as much support as the sophistry of “making the weaker argument stronger”— the haves and have-mores seem to be doing fine.

But I wonder most about Dylan’s claim to not know what he’s talking/singing about: it is either brilliant or naïve. Mark Woods pointed to some good stuff. Dave Marsh seems to suggest that abandoning politics was driven by solipsism. I sometimes wonder if the traditional artistic pose of “I don’t know what it means—you tell me” isn’t simply laziness. But then, watching the news people who interview Dylan at full length in Scorsese’s opus, it seems as if it’s the only possible defense a person can make when pressed to answer questions that they hardly understand, let alone know the answers to.

Marsh is right—the full transcript is really a gem.

it is hard to hear someone you dont know, say_”this is what he meant t say” about something_you just said

for no one can say what I meant t say_absolutely no one_at times I even cant_that was one of those times

my life is lived out daily in the places I feel_most confortable in. these places are places where_I am unknown an unstared at. I perform rarely, an_when I do, there is a constant commotion burnin_at my body an at my mind because of the attention_aimed at me. instincts fight my emotions an fears_fight my instincts…

I do not claim t be smart by the standards set up_I dont even claim to be normal by the standards_set up_an I do not claim to know any kind of truth

Dylan’s self-definition as a “song and dance man” is really the best evasion of all. After all, as Zappa claimed, entertainment is always “optional” and it gets dangerous when taken too seriously. But, the real paradox is the claim that politics is somehow “trivial” when compared to art:

There’s no black and white, left and right to me anymore; there’s only up and down and down is very close to the ground. And I’m trying to go up without thinking about anything trivial such as politics.

Searching my own memories, it seems to me that I’ve made this same sort of claim before. In retrospect, it seems as horribly self-important as the rants of the politically motivated crowd. No direction home, indeed. If both art and politics are trivial, what’s left? It doesn’t make much sense to blame Buffy.

In the end, perhaps Silliman said it best:

At some level, that’s not genius, but a personality disorder, a kind of narcissism perhaps, but one that seems utterly disinterested in his own Self. Certainly that’s consistent with the artist who “don’t look back,” who has lived his adult life with an invented name & who has come up with a new Dylan roughly every three years now since 1960.