Thursday, August 27, 2009

Prematurely-Published Dylan Obituary FAQs

Several readers of the e-book posted below [Like a Rolling Tombston, two postings below on May 12, 2009] have reasonable questions about this mega-posting, which I'll try to address for the benefit of all:

Q Why did you publish Dylan's obituary while he's alive?

A Because for about 35 seconds while listening to Coast-to-Coast AM with Ian Punnett on Sunday night, March 29, 2009, I had truly good reason to believe Dylan's death had been announced.

Q So why didn't you pull the posting as soon as you learned Dylan is still alive?

A Because then I would have had to jettison a terrific essay premise, a premise that also, not at all incidentally, gave me an exquisitely ideal vehicle for publishing a book I had been sitting on—albeit in vastly different form—for decades.

Q What's the deal with your neverending posting's Neverending Paragraph?

A It's the vehicle—in the form of an extended literary device—for disclosing and detailing, if also deviously discombobdylanulating—each of my dozens of Dylan encounters 1975-1987, not to mention all of my various Dylan-related adventures 1972-1988.

Q Why that 1988 cut-off to the Neverending Paragraph?

A Because the nonfiction dialogue with the fictional "ghost" supposedly takes place on June 7, 1988, following the now-legendary debut show of The Neverending Tour. More precisely a half-dialogue, the Neverending Paragraph is a fanciful dramatization of my mindset in the parking lot following that concert which I did in fact attend, alone, at the Concord Pavilion. The events described in that fictionalized, hours-long rave really did happen, with no embellishment required or desired.

Q Is the Neverending Paragraph now complete?

A Not even close! Indeed, it's as incomplete as The Neverending Tour currently is. That is, I'm continuing to add new vignettes at least weekly, so if you had read the essay a month ago, you missed a lot of additional Dylan encounters since added.

Q Why the out-of-the-blue dedication to Abbott & Costello?

A Because, to state the obvious, the format of the Neverending Paragraph is largely if not entirely a direct theft from their most celebrated routine.

Q Why so drenched in style? That is, why make the Neverending Paragraph into this one-half of an old stand-up bit, instead of just a simple conversation? And why then discombobulate it so?

A Because I've never felt comfortable about ever publicly relating these events, which is also why I never sought publication until now. So if you want to see what happened, you'll have to figure it out. (And hey, it's still a lot easier than following stream-of-conscious Beat prose like that of Kerouac or Burroughs, much less Tarantula.) The toughest part is imagining what the ghost is saying to me, but his words are always reflected in my responses. It's true it's a constantly demanding read, as some e-mailers have complained. I'd reply that demonstrates respect for the reader, and anyway, as the introduction explains, it's thusly designed to deter all but the most Dylanologically determined.

Q Did you make up any of these stories?

A Not in the least! The only fictional aspect to the entire e-book is the ghost; everything else happened, often with numerous witnesses on hand.

Q If you're such a Dylan expert, how come you predicted the tour starting June 7, 1988 and continuing to this day would be a short one?

A That's a joke—on me. Obviously. (As is my later "prediction" that Dylan wouldn't survive to 50 if he didn't slow down. Again, obviously.)

Q What's with that goofball title?: LIKE A ROLLING TOMBSTON-—"Huh?...No WAY! I Don't Even GET Stoned Anymore!"

A That's also a joke, although a considerably more subtle one. The idea there was that, after thinking I heard on the radio of Dylan's demise, I am busily pounding out the title to my Dylan obituary when someone comes along, notices what I'm typing, and interrupts exclaiming "Hey Bryan, Dylan's not dead—what, are you high?!?" And there's also another hidden joke in the subtitle: the fact that the word "stoned" is right under what would have been TOMBSTONE, making for an implicit TOMBSTONED alternate title. (Oh, and the title LIKE A ROLLING TOMBSTON- is especially apropos, given that Tombstone Blues was what Dylan himself pressed me to change the title of Zimmerman Blues magazine to.)

Q Isn't it sophomoric to explain your jokes?

A Yes. But apparently, based on the e-mail, I had to. And I founded Zimmerman Blues as a Boston University sophomore.

Q Why all the colors in the Neverending Paragraph?

A Guess.

Q Aren't you and your cohort a couple of jerks for crashing Dylan's son's bar mitzvah in 1983?

A Well, the event was publicly announced by a Dylan aide, in New York magazine.

Q Who do you think you are, the new A.J. Weberman?

A I've never claimed that, and never would. But Albert Grossman once did.

Q Did you stalk Dylan?

A No! But I did live in West Los Angeles when he was using the nearby leased rehearsal hall facility informally known as "Rundown Studios" as his West Coast headquarters in the early 80s. Accordingly, I found myself more than a few times running into him here and there while he was out and about in the neighborhood, as he often was.

Q How did Dylan react when he would see you?

A To my utter amazement, he usually behaved as if he was glad to see me, perhaps because, unlike Weberman, I wasn't trying to provoke him. Though occasionally, as recounted in Like a Rolling Tombston- , he'd just ignore me.

Q Did you really almost vehicularly kill Dylan—accidentally—in 1981?

A Well, he might have only been seriously maimed in the extremely unsettling incident, but yes, the near-miss really happened. But I also pulled him out of the path of a speeding car a year earlier, if that compensatorily counts for anything.

Q Aren't you just being obnoxiously provocative by prematurely publishing a Dylan obituary, especially one so lengthy?

A The e-book has indeed reached over 35,000 words by now. But you'll note that the Dylan obituary therein, which is in the form of an imagined AM radio obit, is all of 14 words total, situated quite near the epic essay's outset. Then the text immediately takes the reader back to the happy reality that Dylan is still very much alive, and nearly as important, still very much creatively active.

Q Why don't you ever use Dylan's first name?

A Because all the other Dylans—Thomas, Jakob, Marshal Dillon—require a qualifier, whereas Dylan never does, as he has so remarkably earned his single-named status of being just Dylan.

Q Isn't a prematurely-published obituary tantamount to slapping Dylan's face?

A Anyone who reads the first twenty or so paragraphs of Like a Rolling Tombston- knows well that I revere, not scorn, Dylan.


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