Archive for October 3rd, 2010

Bob Dylan in America: Out of Many, One

“I’ll know my song well before I start singing”—Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is a plagiarist. Did you know that? Just ask Mokoto Rich, who pointed out that the lyrics from Dylan’s 2006 album, Modern Times, strongly resembled the poetry of Confederate poet laureate Henry Timrod.

Bob Dylan is a fake. Did you know that? Just ask Joni Mitchell, who recently told the Los Angeles Times that, “Everything about Bob is a deception.”

Bob Dylan is a poet, a genius, and one of the greatest artists in American history. Did you know that? Just ask Sean Wilentz, whose recent book, Bob Dylan in America, attempts to properly place Dylan in the lineage of American artists, from Allen Ginsberg to Walt Whitman, from Aaron Copland to Blind Willie McTell.

Wilentz is, by his own admission, a fan, so there is an unmistakable affection for Dylan throughout the book. When Wilentz discusses the accusations of plagiarism, for example, there’s no hint of condemnation. Similarly, Wilentz writes first-person accounts of concerts with the admiration and awe of a member of the “spellbound” audience.

But Wilentz is also a historian (and a rather renowned one at that), so Bob Dylan in America is not the gushing ode to Robert Zimmerman that so many Dylan books quickly become. Instead, Wilentz uses Dylan as a springboard to investigate the annals of American artistic history, tracing Dylan’s influences and inspiration back to their roots. As a result, Bob Dylan in America is about America as much as it is about Bob Dylan. Continue reading

The Sports Revolution: To Halve Is To Have Not

Let me say first that, in general, I agree with my colleague’s assessment of the Ryder Cup. There is something so…so sporting about the event that I enjoy it very much, despite its reprehensible underrepresentation of my native land.*

*No love this year for U.S. Open runner-up Gregory Havret, Captain Monty?

But it is not all the sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows that mon frere makes it out to be. No, the Ryder Cup is not perfect. It has one very glaring, to the point of being almost unignorable, flaw: The Half.

The Half is merely golf’s pretentious term for a draw, which is soccer’s pretentious term for a tie. The Ryder Cup embraces ties like no event outside of the World Cup. Every match must end by the 18th, and the ones that end with neither team having an advantage are, well, halved. But you can’t eat your cake and halve it, too.* You can’t host an event all about winning while expressing no qualms when several of its constitutive parts end in draws.

*Forgive my inversion of the phrase for a larger rhetorical punch.

Continue reading

Joie de Vivre: Why I Love the Ryder Cup

Since I already started one post this week with a look-back to the fall of 1999,* why not another? The 1999 Ryder Cup was one of the greatest sports moments of my life — I’ve never rooted harder for an American team in international competition. When Justin Leonard’s putt back-rimmed and fell, well, that was just about the happiest I’ve ever been about a golf event.

*And while we’re at it, remember this from last year?

Ever since, the Ryder Cup has been one of my three to five favorite sporting events.*

*It’s particularly difficult for me to rank the Ryder Cup because of its biennial nature. As it stands, I look forward to it more than I do the Super Bowl, but if it were every year, this would certainly not be the case.**

**March Madness is indisputably No. 1.

What makes the Ryder Cup so appealing, and why am I particularly amped for today’s conclusion? Let’s count:

1. It’s unlike anything else in golf.

Continue reading