My most recent take on Bob Dylan, posted here a few weeks ago, has been picked up by First of the Month as part of a star-studded line-up which can be sampled below. If anything appeals, it can be read for free in full at the cited link. Enjoy.
Read new posts at www.firstofthemonth.org by Jacinthe Ahmed Assad, Amiri Baraka, Benj DeMott, Fr. Rick Frechette, Eugene Goodheart, David Golding, Ben Kessler, Bob Levin, Judy Oppenheimer, Fredric Smoler & Richard Torres. A few samples…
Smoler: Karl Rove made a heavy last minute bet on people like my [late] father-in-law—on others who had also built their houses with their own hands, and worked in mills and mines before being cheated of much of their pensions, and who seem to have very willingly given and never regretted that service for which they are at the end of their lives tersely and quite movingly thanked by people who have done the same—and in Pennsylvania, at least, also neighboring Ohio, Mr. Rove lost that bet. At the lunch after the funeral mass Uncle Henry, astonishingly hale and hearty at ninety-two, head of an organization of eight hundred retired steel workers for Obama, looked forward to the coming election with considerable confidence. So it is a mistake, certainly a graceless and maybe a dangerous one, to see the election as a triumph over people who are old and white, male and rural, rather than in many cases a triumph for them, and in a fair number of cases by them.
DeMott: The faces of Michelle Obama and her mother looking on with a sort of quizzical kindness as Jagger danced for them flashed me back to a mid-90s Rolling Stones concert at the Meadowlands where there were, say, a dozen black people in the crowd of 60,000. In that very white house, in the midst of “Monkey Man,” a winded Jagger faded out and an African-American backup singer, Lisa Fischer, moved to the front of the stage (wearing the hell out of a red sequined mini-skirt). “I’m a monkey,” she screamed. “Nothing but a monkey.” The song Fischer sang was originally a Jagger answer record to a Beatles track on The White Album, but Fischer’s sponsored “Be Black Baby” act reduced its meaning. She wouldn’t stop savaging herself – “I’m a MONKEY! YAHOO! NOTHING BUT A MONKEY!”
Golding: One must always proceed deeper, lower, in Celine's cosmos (for it is a cosmos, a perineum cosmos, hermetically sealed and stinking of the latrine), into the benthic zone of the body-soul: that detritivorous communist fauna of expulsion, of shitting fornicating agonistic half-life whose only thought is not to think, to avoid the one thought that is impossible anyway, the thought that would save us, the thought on the other side of death, the beatitude of the body-soul's recognition of itself.
Kessler: Wallace writes that the beauty Federer brings to the sport “has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it has to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.” Which means, of course – though Wallace doesn’t say it, doesn’t have to say it – our reconciliation with mortality.
Levin: Consider that the encore, as it has been continually through this leg of Dylan’s journey, was “Blowin’ in the Wind.” That, of course, was the hit from 50 years ago, the first song of his I ever heard. Then, at 21, one received it as talismanic inspiration. One believed it spoke of racial harmony and world peace. One believed we were on an irresistible march toward these achievements. On other tours, Dylan has omitted the song from his repertoire or presented it as though the wind on which it centered was as devoid of substance as any mirage. But now, featured so prominently as a good-night and good-bye, coming on the heels of Tempest’s warnings of “wasted years” and “final run(s),” and “last trip(s),” weight has been restored. “He, me, you... Every year we’ve been singing this,” my wife Adele said. “‘How many times...?’ It’s running out.”
Frechette: Sadly, we see so many sick and malnourished children, that it was not [Jean Toney’s] condition that made him stand out to me; rather it was because he would just sit and stare and never say hello when someone passed by him…At the end of very long days, as I plodded to my room exhausted, he would not say a word as I went by…Finally one night I said, “Why don’t you ever say hello?”…He said, “to who?”…I said, “to me, and to whoever goes by!”…Jean Tony said, “I didn’t see you go by. I am blind.”
Oppenheimer: This is a grandma thing—I feel it in my bones. People tend to think senior women are invisible, and maybe we are. Only not to each other. We have an automatic bond. White, black, brown and gray, we share the kind of sisterhood that only comes with age…[F]or women, at least, age trumps race. Every time.
Goodheart: Here is a theory about Obama memorably expressed by a friend of mine on the left. “The consciousness of being a black man in a white and hostile society is deep in his DNA, fundamentally emasculating him, morally, politically, psychologically, in the one great test, that clearly cannot be rectified—for he is quite likely to lose the election because of it—the mouse could not roar—it is a tragedy for him and the country.” …My friend employs an unfortunate metaphor, DNA, for “the consciousness of being black,” unfortunate because ethnic or racial consciousness is a cultural, not a biological construction. Obama is being faulted for his coolness and the choices and decisions he has made as if they proceed from the color of his skin as opposed to individual temperament, convictions and the personal exercise of intelligence.
Baraka: What I had wanted to address was [Mayor Booker’s] Republican sounding statement that “the government can’t do everything.” I wanted to ask him: than why doesn’t he demand that Prudential, the world’s largest insurance company pay its taxes, since it hasn’t paid since 1970. That one white building is worth 300 million dollars a year, taxes. A 45 year old tax exemption!
Torres: The two elderly poll workers then called the teen to the table. The teen paused and took a deep breath. Her friend gave her a comforting pat/shove in the back and pushed her towards the table. “You’ve got to forgive me,” she said, “this is my first time voting.” The poll workers smiled. “Nothing to worry about,” said the woman. “Just take your time,” said the man.
As she stepped forward, a slight commotion appeared to break out in the A to L line. A man in the back of the line began to complain that an elderly lady clutching a walker had cut to the front. “But I’m old,” she said in a weak voice, “I can’t stand for long.” The man in the back of the line began to respond until a young tall brother in the front, stepped out of the line, took a step towards him and spoke. “I let go her in front of me,” he said. Then he thumped his chest with his right hand for emphasis. “Me,” he repeated. Then he turned to the elderly lady and with his left hand cradled her right elbow. “Just take your time,” he softly told her as a slight smile came over her face, “you just take your time.”
Causes Bob Levin Supports
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, ACLU, PEN, Berkeley Emergency Food & Housing Project.