Listening to Bob Dylan’s recent Nobel Prize for Literature Lecture was a magical experience for me. He framed the lecture around three classic texts – Moby Dick, All’s Quiet on the Western Front, and the Odyssey. The magic came from reading Dylan’s take on these same books I read when I was in high school and during my first college go-round as an English Lit major where I accumulated a whopping 0.7 GPA in my first two years. Dylan’s nuanced understanding of the texts certainly dwarfed anything my adolescent brain was able to take away at the time.
But in the way that song lyrics I knew by heart at the age of 12 take on a whole knew meaning today in my 60s, I look forward to rereading some of these classics as well.
Toward the end of his Nobel presentation, in quoting lines from John Dunne’s Pilgrims Progress, Dylan speaks, “I don’t know what it means either, but it sounds good” which reminds me of why I enjoy Dylan so much too. Whether the lines from Mr. Tambourine Man:
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory of fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow
or from W.S. Merwin’s The Waves:
I inhabited the wake of a long wave
I don’t know what they mean either but they too, sound good and are good to think.
Thanks to Bob Dylan for giving us so much stuff that sounds good.