I just began reading Bob Dylan’s autobiography “Chronicles” the other day. As a lifelong Dylan fan, it has always been somewhat frustrating that you could never get a feel on his life, or his thought process, due mostly to his intense privacy. Whatever I thought I knew about Bob Dylan was what came through in his songs, and that wasn’t too much. Maybe the album “Blood on the Tracks” let us in a little bit, but it was enigmatic as it was explanative.
Dylan has reached a point of idolatry to me. As a writer, I’ve never seen anyone be more clear, yet cloudy, at the same time. It makes me wonder how he knew. As I read on, I’ve realized that he was completely self-educated; he learned literature and all sorts of other things from a big library that the folks he lived with had. An awesome mind he has…to live that kind of life, to read all that he’s read without sitting in college, stagnant, for four years. He read during the day, and played music in Greenwich Village at night. Everything was productive that he did, everything was him heading right for his goal of being a giant among not only musicians, but poets. There were no “Development of Math” classes for him, no “Spanish I”. I guess it’s the structure that I have a problem with the most in college. I never feel like four years at Montclair was worth the 20 grand or whatever it costs. I could have learned the same from a library, and a hell of a lot cheaper.
I appreciate the writing classes, and some of the English classes. For a writer, I never write when someone isn’t making me. I guess that’s a bad thing, but when I do write, the shit dumps out onto the page like I spilled a pint glass. I don’t know if all this was worth the four years…I could be working, living on my own, and then have had a whole different set of experiences. Isn’t that what a writer needs- experience? College isn’t the experience that it is for the college kids who are lucky enough to have mommy and daddy foot the bill for everything. Yea, my parents paid for college. But that’s mostly because I pay for my car, and its insurance, and a couple other things…which has totaled about 20,000 in the last two years. There’s nothing like working your balls off 35 hours a week during school, so you can pay for a truck that you regret getting and for a degree that isn’t going to assure me of anything other than the fact that I now have a lot of fancy books that I’ll probably never grab again. In a way its good, because I’ve gotten to have some pretty good times in my hometown, drinking and fighting and fucking around, that I wouldn’t have had had I not been here. Of course, I wonder what life holds on the outside of this town, and I wonder if I’ll ever find out.
Its funny how Dylan never writes about writing his songs. Not a word. I love that. Because I don’t want to know how he wrote them- I already know. That was simply his soul on paper. But its his experiences that I envy. He lived in New York City for years, back when there was just a concentration of some amazing minds. The beat writers, the folk musicians, the leftists, the politics, what a scene they had going on back then. It seems like now all people do is watch American Idol and other bullshit shows, shows which simulate reality for people instead of making them go out and live their own. I wonder what Dylan Thomas would think about reality TV.
If I was out living, like Dylan was, would I be happy? Maybe. Probably happier than a guy who is run down from breaking his ass for four years with little to show for it. I value experience way above degrees. I’d be a great writer whether I came to MSU or not. Would I have been better had I never come at all? Or would I end up like an uncle of mine, who played the drums incredibly but never played in a band…only in the basement, where no one ever heard him besides those that didn’t care…