I've said multiple times that I find Bob Dylan to be one of the most amusing artists of my lifetime.
There are people who proudly bellow about living their life as art. Dylan has quietly done exactly that. He has created his own myth, continues to embellish it and appears to take great delight in it.
All I can imagine is that Bob Dylan must chuckle himself to sleep every time he ponders his legacy.
What is Dylan? Is he everything he's told us in his songs? Are any of his songs about him? What about the things he's said in interviews? What about the things others have said about him?
There's an entire sub-culture of people who study Dylan intently and argue about what he did and did not say or mean or indicate. Do any of them see eye-to-eye? Sometimes.
And what about what Dylan has written in book form?
His “Chronicles Vol. 1” book was a revelation, with fascinating fresh takes on well-known tales, some confessions and whole areas of interest. It also skips helter skelter through his history, and it leaves room for additional “volumes.”
How much of it all really is Dylan, and how much of it is him, magpie-like, throwing words at pages? It's been a valid point of discussion throughout his career, and has fired more intently this century.
This lengthy and solid piece refers to “Chronicles” as Dylan's “Da Vinci Code,” an idea that fascinated me. Is it possible to reveal a hidden book within the book? That would be pretty cool.
The theories posited are even more interesting, though. Thoughts that Dylan has lifted entire pieces of other literature and sprinkled them throughout his works. Speculation that it may be decades before anyone can understand what Dylan was doing with his literary style.
Years ago, these thoughts might have frightened me a bit. I might have wondered how original Dylan really was.
And now, as I realize how much artists owe to what's around them, and to each other, I'm realizing the line between ripping off someone else and using other work as launching points is far thinner (or wider, depending on how you picture it) than I ever imagined.
In one way, I hope Dylan has been messing with us by sliding other efforts into his own. Like Paul McCartney and Elton John, he's done it well, and made something better.
But what I hope most is that Dylan has done whatever he's done so well that no one can ever figure it out. That's a pure artistic win, and perhaps the greatest practical joke he's capable of pulling.