Read Books, or, Yours and Mine to Play

I’m so pleased to have something to show for neglecting this blog, and much more pleased to have something to offer that broadcasts voices besides mine. Above is the wonderful cover for Dylan at Play, just now available from Cambridge Scholars Press. The book collects 13 essays by 13 very different writers, each of whom opens his or her own door into our favorite topic. I am proud and happy to have co-edited the project with the excellent Dr. Nick Smart, and the book also contains an essay by each of us.

Click right here and you can view CSP’s catalog entry for the book, and read our Table of Contents and Introduction.

We looked around for emerging writers we knew and respected, and writers already established in circles we wanted to expand  Dylan at Play aims to do two things at once.

  • Thing One: introduce serious Dylan listeners to a variety of voices that are new or slightly-off-the-beaten-path and demonstrate the wild range of what we talk about when we talk about Bob Dylan.
  • Thing Two: offer invitations to join this conversation.  Get on the playing field with the rest of us, either in a classroom, or via the venue of your choice.

As much as we want, say, Christopher Rollason‘s piece on the Spanish translation of Chronicles to advance work in the growing field of Translation Studies, or as much as we want Stephen Hazan-Arnoff‘s piece on Dylan as a “Marginal Prophet” to advance serious work on Dylan and contemporary theology, we want the collection to be a sampler enticing readers to find a model, or an inspiration, or a provocation for their own expression.

A brief sample of the sampler:

  • Google Bob Dylan today, August 30, 2011, and get “About 61,900,00 results.” In Dylan at Play you can read the story of the young Dylan fan who becameMike Hobo,” and developed the longest-running Dylan website, which in turn becomes the story of the changing culture of fandom: an ever-increasing network of “human links.”
  • Stephen Webb is already familiar to Dylan enthusiasts for his book, Dylan Redeemed, which already contains some of the headiest meditations on Dylan’s voice anyone’s penned.  For us, he offers an entire collage series of meditations on Dylan’s ineffable voice, including the distinction between beautiful and sublime.
  • A new linguistic examination of  Dylan’s lyrics, by Ditlev Larsen,  which examines “communicative competence” and “collocations” and offers a new way to talk about how and why Dylan is deeply accessible to such a vast and varied audience.
  • Nearly every current concert review seems obliged to appear shocked–shocked!–that Dylan remains animated and upright at this advanced point in time. Luckily for us, in the piece, “Dylan Acts His Age,” James Brancato cuts through the arch blather on this issue and really looks at mortality and aging in Dylan’s work.

And six more voices and topics…

Cambridge Scholars is an academic press and the book is marketed and priced accordingly. We’d love to get this in the hands of instructors using Dylan in any curriculum and syllabus from the literary to the linguistic to the sociocultural to the purely Dylan-centered.   If you’re interested, we’d be delighted to collaborate with any instructors on supplemental reading, playlist suggestions, and any ideas for working with the texts creatively in your courses. We have over 15 years of academic instructorship between us.

And anyone else interested in using Dylan at Play as a springboard for your own creative responses or scholarly investigations of Dylan’s work is welcome to contact us with questions–and perhaps suggestions for a second volume of more play, a dream worth dreaming.

As of 2:23 PM EST on August 30, 2011, ask Amazon to cough up a list of books containing the magic words Bob Dylan, and you get 5,534 coughs. And I say hallelujah to each and every one, even the ones I know I will never read. We’re all in this together–we’re all trying to say what we mean about something that matters to us, we’re trying to contribute, share, illuminate, and as long as our intentions are decent, we deserve to wake up and even befriend a reader or two. Let’s think of our books as the doors to even more books.

(If you can’t find my email address on the blog here, feel free to email me at dylanatplay@gmail.com)

Thank you

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