USELESS AND POINTLESS KNOWLEDGE. Let me confess up front that my sole exposure to Christopher Ricks's Bob Dylan scholarship consists of reading occasional references to it in Alex Beam's Boston Globe column. That said, I don't think I would be any less dubious if I were to sit down and read Dylan's Visions of Sin, Ricks's 500-page opus, which is the subject of this Charles McGrath piece in today's New York Times. McGrath writes of Visions:
At various points he compares Mr. Dylan to Marvell, Marlowe, Keats, Tennyson, Hardy, Yeats and Marlon Brando, to cite just a few of his references.... Other chapters ... draw insightful and persuasive parallels between, say, "Lay Lady Lay" and John Donne's poem "To His Mistress Going to Bed," between "Not Dark Yet" and Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale," and between "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and the Scottish ballad "Lord Randal."
Whoa! The problem with Ricks - who splits his time between Boston University and Oxford - is the same as that of many academicians who are drawn to pop culture. By comparing Dylan to the Great Poets, Ricks both overpraises and diminishes Dylan's gifts. Although Brando makes sense.
Maybe a few of Dylan's songs can hold up on the page; "Desolation Row," a Ricks favorite, certainly comes to mind. But Dylan isn't a poet so much as he is a singer/ songwriter/ musician/ kick-ass rock-and-roller. His genius flows from the combination of his lyrics, his music, and his uniquely urgent, idiosyncratic singing. (Never mind his voice; Dylan is among the greatest singers rock has produced.)
IT'S ALL IN THE WRIST. If you or I made a really small sundae, it would be a really small sundae. But if MIT alumnus Kevin Brown makes one, it's something that he "invented," earning him a huge spread on the front of today's Boston Globe Food section. Go figure.
AT LEAST IT'S NOT THE ONION. An alert Wonkette reader passes along one of her finds: a piece on the website Capitol Hill Blue claiming that aides to George W. Bush "privately express growing concern over their leader's state of mind." Writes site publisher Doug Thompson:
Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.
"It reminds me of the Nixon days," says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. "Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That's the mood over there."
The president also reportedly veers between quoting from the Bible and vulgarly denouncing his enemies.
File this under: interesting if true. And: unlikely. But highly entertaining!