Exhuming Bob Chronicles IX Pensees 8: New Morning

July 23, 2008


Exhuming Bob:

Chronicles IX, Pensees 8:

New Morning


R.E. Prindle

     The chapter New Morning opens with an interesting comparison.  Bob had just returned to Woodstock after his father’s funeral in the summer of 1968.  The association of New Morning with the death of his father in itself presents an interesting psychological mental state.  A letter was waiting for him from who he considers one of the three great American poets, Archibald MacLeish.  MacLeish was just coming off his Broadway triumph J.B.  In the letter he asks Bob and Sara to call on him in his Connecticut home to discuss a musical collaboration on his new play.  A jewish father dies; a goy ‘father’ appears. 

     As Bob explains, Father Abram is somewhat dull, thinking that an artist must be a painter.  The notion seems to be that Bob is slightly ashamed of his father for not understanding the distinction between pictures and the artistic soul.  Thus contrasting with dull Abram is the brilliant intellectual poet-artist, Archibald MacLeish.  Bob is quickly on intimate terms referring to the Poet Laureate of America as Archie.

     If you’ve never read Poe’s last story Landor’s Cottage you might like to compare that description to Bob’s of MacLeish’s home.  While we never meet Poe’s Landor Bob does introduce us to Archie.  Coming from small town Hibbing Bob seems to be overwhelmed by the splendor of MacLeish’s dwelling place.  Sure sounded good to me.  So as Bob left Abram at the rosy fingered Dawn of his New Morning, MacLeish presents himself as the sun rising above the horizon.  But it’s a Black Sun.  MacLeish does not walk on the sunny side of the street.  He’s dark, as anyone who writes a play commentary on the Book of Job must necessarily be. 

     His new play is called Scratch.  One presumes after Old Scratch, The Devil.  Bob quotes some lines of Archie’s character Scratch, p.124:

     I know there is evil in the world- essential evil, not the opposite of good or the defective of good but something to which good itself is an irrelevance- a fantasy.  No one can live as long as I have, hear what I have heard and not know that.  I know too- more precisely- I am ready to believe that there may be something in the world-someone, if you prefer- that purposes evil, that intends it…powerful nations suddenly, without occasion, without apparent cause…decay.  Their children turn against them, their families disintegrate.

     The strength of the insight is too strong for Bob at that precise psychological moment but Archie has given him a hint of a reality that Bob will realize all too soon.  Perhaps in reference to Abe and Archie Bob meets Frank Sinatra Jr. at the Rainbow Room.  Frank, Jr. nursing one of the same travails as Bob asks him after discussing Frank Sr.:  What do you do when that father turns out to be a son-of-a-bitch.

     Well, yes, you’ve got an identity problem, don’t you?  Bob has always had an identity problem.  What started out bad has taken a turn for the worse.  He wanted to be Bob Dylan but now being Bob Dylan has turned out to be a son-of-a-bitch, a burden Bob…well, just plain Bob, cant’ bear.  He’s learning about this inherent evil of life Archie is talking about.

     If you’ve never experienced what Bob is telling you it will be hard to understand.  I’ve suffered through a mild dose of them blues, enough to  give me understanding, but nothing compared to Bob.  He wakes up and someone is standing in his bedroom watching he and Sara sleep.  That gives you a start.  But if Bob thought he had identity problems what kind of problems does some poor fish have who literally wants to get inside your skin have.  Walk a mile in your shoes like Toby.  Everybody want something from you that you don’t have to give.  And I mean something.  You by your success have emasculated them, Bob’s success.  So they in turn want your dick and balls.  They want ot carry them around in their pocket to give them what they lack.  ‘Hey, you know what I’ve got in my pocket, look, Bob Dylan’s dick and balls.’

     You want to know what emasculation is?  Bob tells you.  The Sheriff of Woodstock tells him that if someone is scrambling over his roof and falls off Dylan will be legally responsible.  That does something to your mind.  The Sheriff tells Bob that if any of these crazies attack him and he defends himself he’ll be the guy going to jail.  That one sends a few synapses seeking new routes through the brain.  That one did happen to me.  Might as well have left the planet, the Sheriff just took your dick and balls.

     Bob is now learning first hand of the evil in Archie’s world.  Damn that’s rough.

     Even then Bob couldn’t make his lyrics dark enough for Archie although, now this is funny, Bob did use them in his album New Morning.  What does that say about a new morning?

     Bob just couldn’t get used to being Bob Dylan.  Being Bob was OK but being Bob Dylan was tough.  They were everywhere.  You couldn’t even run much less hide.

     As Bob tells us he was riding down the highway with Robbie Robertson when Robbie asked him:  ‘Where are you going to take it now?’  ‘Take what?’  Bob asks in return.  ‘Pop music.’  Robbie naively replies.

     Bob is flabbergasted but who can blame Robbie?  For the last six years Bob had been calling the shots, getting booed and selling records, renovating and reinvigorating folk music, taking folk music electric, electrifying rock.  Why shouldn’t Robbie think something mega revolutationary was brewing in Bob’s brain?  Being Bob was easy, being Bob Dylan was damn near impossible.  Those three fathers, Abe, Archie and Frank Sr.  Bob was learning something about the inherent evil of living.

     His new mentor, Archie, thinking perhaps that Bob was Bob Dylan pushes him to sharpen and darken the lyrics to the songs he’s written for Archie.  Bob just like after Blonde On Blonde has taken it as far as it can go.  He opts out on Archie.  Two fathers down but there’s still that Big Guy In The Sky but that Bob will  seek a little farther down the road.

     New Morning was a good chapter.  I could empathize.  Current events are giving me a new slant on the inherent evil in the world too.  Heads up.

2 Responses to “Exhuming Bob Chronicles IX Pensees 8: New Morning”

  1. Jan Sevastakis Says:

    Oh brother.

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