Can Bob Be Saved?

by Larry Fyffe

The writers of today have to deal with the Freudian School Of Thought, the Surrealist School, and that of the Symbolists, but most of all they have to deal with the Deconstructionists.

The problem of uncovering an author’s intention in regards to the meaning of a novel, a poem, or song lyrics lies not with the use of of dream-like imagery, not with sexual deflections, nor with personalized symbolism, but, assert the Deconstructionists, with language itself.

The question is: Can singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan be saved from the Post-Modernists who are scaling the walls of his castle of Art in an attempt to ravish his one true love – her/it’s name is “Language”:

In my neighbourhood, she cries both night and day
I know 'cause it was there
It's a milestone, but she's down on her luck
(Bob Dylan; I'm Not There)

Worse still, the Deconstructionists, who say a writer’s intentions cannot ascertained for certain, are accompanied by Dylan song analysts who take the easy route out, who join up with the barbarians climbing the walls whilst claiming that many of Dylan’s songs just don’t make any sense:

Like I said, 'Carry on'
I wish I was there to help her
But I'm not there, I'm gone
(Bob Dylan: I'm Not There)

Parodying the Post-Modern’s own beloved style, Dylan heaves hot, boiling water from his watchtower down upon their heads and upon those of their allies, the School of No-Sense:

Well, It's all about diffusion
And I cry for her veil
I don't need anybody now beside me to tell
(Bob Dylan: I'm Not There)

With the song quoted above, Bob Dylan takes a solid punch at these particular literary critics. The Deconstructionists, and the No-Sensists – who some critics claim are nihilistic – insist on separating the author’s intention from the work – pieces like Dylan creates -, and they leave it up to the listener or reader to disentangle the meaning thereof – a difficult chore because any meaning depends solely on the relationship of one word to another, including outright opposites and fuzzy modifiers; language accordingly, in its written form too, takes on a life of it’s own – the author is not there; instead, he gets left behind by his independent- minded lover.

So there are a number of different interpretations that can be taken from the work (though not just any) because they be entangled with one another, and therefore cannot be reduced to one Platonic absolute meaning. So saith Deconstructionists.

That is, there be supposedly no middleman, no ‘golden mean’. But the Emperor of Art strikes back – singing involves both writing and vocalizing, as well as accompanying music,  even when created in an unstructured, nonstandard way (Post-Modernists envision this to be a path out of the mess) runs up against the mood of the music, and the manner in which the singer emotes the words.

In spite of what Dylan claims, he’s standing still to assist his beloved one in “I’m Not There”.

Turning bad guys into good guys relates to the thoughts of the Deconstructionists (no matter how that term is defined (or not defined as other words have to be employed) because words such as ‘good’, they claim, can only be defined in relation to what is ‘bad’:

John Wesley Harding
Was a friend to the poor
All along this countryside
He opened many a door
But he was never known
To hurt an honest man
(Bof Dylan: John Wesley Harding)

However, woe unto those who say that the song above makes no sense since the outlaw in real life be a killer, and a racist to boot.

It all comes back home to this:

Now I'll cry tonight like I cried the night before
And I'm 'leased on the highway, but I dream about the door
(Bob Dylan: I'm Not There)

And, yes to:

Outside the crowd was stirring
You can hear it from the door
Inside the judge was stepping down
While the jury cried for more
(Bob Dylan: Drifter's Escape)

The singer/songwriter applies Dylanesque ‘rhyme twists’ to his own writings:  ~ ‘poor’/’door’; ~ ‘before’/’door’; ~ ‘more’/ ‘door’. The  euphonious word ‘door’ may be taken as a symbol of escape, a euphemism for a sexual entrance, a surrealist image from a dream, and a metonymic tropic for “home” –  all depending on the context of the lyrics in which the word is used.

Untold Dylan

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