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All Quiet on the Blogstern Front

March 14, 2008

I saw Joanna Newsom play with the Brooklyn Philharmonic at BAM. Lines like “In the trough of the waves, which are pawing like dogs, pitch we, pale-faced and grave, as I write in my log” jumped out at me; I had heard the words before but I had never heard the words before. I thought of the jump in complexity from Milk-Eyed Mender to Ys and how it echoed, in its unprecedentedness, the leap that Dylan made from The Freewheelin’ to Blonde on Blonde and, in his only “V” song, “The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face, where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place.” But then Joanna came back out, a vision in a short hot pink dress, and I heard evidence of her genius presaged: “There are some mornings when the sky looks like a road.” Early on Dylan meditated on roads, too, singing in tribute to his idol, “I’m a-leaving’ tomorrow, but I could leave today, somewhere down the road someday.”

Joanna’s come home but Dylan’s on the road again. In Todd Haynes’ fractured biopic I’m Not There, which I saw last Sunday, Dylan morphed as a small black boy jumping trains, living out of time, to a work shirt-clad Freedom Rider to a symbol-addled French dreamer to an arch embodiment of that high thin wild mercury sound to a broken family man to a man of god to a bespectacled, wily outlaw witnessing the sunset of that weird old America only to end up again, as he remains, on a train, winking and forever receding from view yet not ever disappearing. He’s in whiteface at the ballpark this summer. He drives SUVs in black mirror shades. He sells ladies underwear just like he said he would. He wears bolo ties and can’t keep from crying over Alicia Keys, who was born in Hell’s Kitchen when he was living down the line. Woody, Dylan, Johanna, and Joanna, they “will be fine; but what was yours and mine appears to me a sandcastle that the gibbering wave takes.”

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