Come gather ’round people of Amerdica

Friday night, at Ken Sander’s Rare Books in Salt Lake City, there was an event celebrating Bob Dylan’s inauguration as winner of the Nobel Prize for literature.

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Alex Caldiero opened the performance with his own poem written as a DADA protest on the day after the recent election and containing this memorable admonition and recalibration: “we need to readjust our view of our homeland and see it as it is, just a bit out of kilter, skewed, that we may know the content of our character more dispassionately, to wit, Amerdica (only real patriots can appreciate the love embedded in this venerable name)”.

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He then turned to Bob Dylan, reading lyrics in a way that, unstrung from the music, emphasized thoughts like these vaguely threatening lines from the “Ballad of the Thin Man”: “Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is / Do you, Mr. Jones?”

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He undid the audience with the power of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”:

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singing
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

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And in the end he howled and we howled and proclaimed in our bookish but not monkish unity that all along the watchtower the visions of Johanna sung by Mr. Tamborine Man like a rolling stone while blowing in the wind on desolation row mean that the election is history and that as the future unrolls the times, by god, they are gonna be changing.

… photos by Frank McEntire

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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2 Responses to Come gather ’round people of Amerdica

  1. J.G. says:

    It sounds like a terrific evening, well reported. Thank you.

    Like

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