Times They Are a-Booin’

To the Editor:

Thanks for the thoughtful review of Bob Dylan’s new album and current incarnation [“Fix Is In on Dylan: Modern Times Worst Since Self-Portrait,” Ron Rosenbaum, Edgy Enthusiast, Sept. 11]. I don’t agree wholeheartedly, but I appreciate Mr. Rosenbaum’s well-pleaded case that allowed me to think deeper about my attitude toward Mr. Dylan’s latest work.

That said, I treasure Mr. Dylan’s last three albums (I, too, dislike the idea of the trilogy) as much, perhaps even more, than that other “trilogy” from his first creative zenith. There are a variety of reasons: I’m growing up with them as they are released; his voice, I feel, is more evocative, expressive and even triumphant than ever before; I can see him play old and new songs in concert and flip them all on end.

This idea of “rootsiness” appeals to me, since I feel my generation is more a pastiche culture than any other. All of our clothes and ideas seem borrowed, so why shouldn’t the music be, if it’s good? Dylan has adopted these older forms while making them “new” through lyrical juxtapositions delivered with trademark phrasing. Where else will you find a jogging politician “running for office” placed beside a quote from President Lincoln? This is theft, yes, but with joie de vivre and a whopping good time that I don’t find elsewhere, not even in the originals he steals.

I’m sure Mr. Rosenbaum is getting plenty of upset e-mails. That’s unfortunate, because it’s necessary to be critical of one’s heroes. When done modestly and thoughtfully, as he’s done, it’s the best tribute one could offer. I don’t appreciate the cult of Mr. Dylan barring criticism, especially since I don’t believe Modern Times lives up to Love and Theft, my favorite album of his, so I welcome any straightforward reaction thrown into this tiring discourse.

Evan Kennedy


Novel Touch

To the Editor:

Thank you for this timely and heartfelt column [“An Honest French Novel and a Message for Today,” Richard Brookhiser, The National Observer, Sept. 11]. An excellent novel of recent vintage that touches upon many of the same themes is Edie Meidav’s Crawl Space.

Biff Dorsey

Portland, Ore. Letters