You may have noticed: instead of posting about books, I’ve been redesigning The Millions. I would love to hear any comments or suggestions. Also, check out the new feature: New York Times book headlines, just below the Ask a Book Question area.
This Thursday, December 6, Gallery Bar on the Lower East Side will host an opening for A Field Guide to the North American Family: The Exhibition. Co-curated by Mark Batty Publisher and the Humble Arts Foundation, this month-long exhibition will showcase prints of the photographs I selected to illustrate my book. Here’s your chance to see the works of brilliant photographers like Jon Gitelson, Tema Stauffer, and Matt Nighswander in person – and even to take one home, if you’re inclined to purchase.Just as importantly, the opening, which runs from 7 to 12 p.m., should be a rocking party. Wine is free from 7 to 8, and drink specials run all night. I’ll be signing books and getting my social chops back in shape for the holiday season. Hope to see some of you there! For more information, see the Gallery Bar website.Then, on Sunday, it’s back on the Lower East Side. I’ll be reading at Bluestockings Bookstore with Alex Rose, trail-blazing author of The Musical Illusionist, the second release from Akashic’s Hotel St. George Press. I hear that Mr. Rose has a multimedia extravaganza planned to coincide with his reading, so I’ve been hard at work on my own visual aids. The reading’s at 7, and again, it would be great to see some Millions readers in the crowd.
It’s my pleasure to introduce to you a new contributor to The Millions. Emre is an old friend of mine and I’ve always enjoyed our literary discussions. Emre read a lot of books last year, and he put together a diary of his reading experience. My plan is to post a segment of it each week. I’ve decided to share the whole diary with you because I think it represents one way that we, as readers, can get more out of the time we devote to our obsession with the written word. The post above this one will be the first in the series, but before we get to that, here’s a little more about Emre:Emre Peker currently slaves away as a paralegal in New York. Emre likes the city, food, drinks, books, music and good people. After winning the lottery, Emre will purchase a private island, derive a way to declare independence, and establish his own kingdom. Until then, Emre hopes to keep sane by reading and writing.One more thing, Emre grew up in Turkey, but has lived in the US for the last six years or so. This explains why some of the books he read last year were in Turkish.
The Millions recently published guest contributor Ed Simon’s list of nominations for America’s national epic. Ed had included Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited; editor Lydia Kiesling ruthlessly cut the entry, feeling that it was too cute to cross genres. Now that the Nobel Prize Committee has upheld Ed’s judgment, we run his argument in its entirety below, with our apologies for denying his prescience. As the Laureate says, “We’re idiots, babe.”
Highway 61 Revisited (1965) by Bob Dylan – There is a temptation to claim that when it comes to Dylan, the greatest epic isn’t any individual album, but rather the entirety of his collected output, or maybe even better, the substance of his very life. After all, his story is almost absurdly archetypical American, a tale of rugged individualism and self-invention in which our young hero went east rather than west. His is a story about young Robert Zimmerman, suburban Jewish kid from Hibbing, Minnesota, hitch-hiking to Morris Plains, New Jersey, where he received a folk benediction from the hillbilly Okie troubadour Woody Guthrie dying from Huntington’s disease in a state hospital. As a result, he acquired the bardic name Dylan and moved to Greenwich Village where he would reinvent American music. Performing for half a century and with 37 albums, Dylan reconciles American contradictions more than any other performer before or after. He has been the firebrand revolutionary singing for civil rights and the reactionary Christian fundamentalist revivalist; he played folk modeled on the oldest songs in the English language and he went electric; though as he put it with characteristic impishness at a 1965 press conference, he primarily thinks of himself “as more of a song and dance man.” While the argument could be made for several different albums as Dylan’s American epic, it is Highway 61 Revisited which most fully embodies the grandeur and the shame of what the word “America” means – it is prophetic in its evocations. He riffs on Genesis when he sings “God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son,’/Abe says, ‘Man, you must be puttin’ me on,’” but as in the original God is serious, so is Dylan’s, continuing with, “Well Abe says, ‘Where do you want this killin’ done?’/God says, ‘Out on Highway 61.’” The songwriter’s genius for what critic Greil Marcus has called “the old, weird America” understands that collapsing biblical history into American is a fundamental strategy for expressing the strangeness of this country. Why shouldn’t Mt. Moriah be on America’s most iconic highway? In his lyrics, which skirt just this side of surrealism, there is a panoply of strange characters, including Cinderella, Bette Davis, Albert Einstein, Cain and Abel, Eliot and Pound, Ophelia and Robin Hood (just to present a smattering). Dylan’s lyrical logic is myth logic, but all the better to be recounted in the language of dreams. The road is the medium of the hero’s journey, and Highway 61 isn’t the only one on the album; there’s also “Desolation Row,” where “They’re selling postcards of the hanging,” calling forth nothing so much as America’s brutal racial legacies. And of course there is the opus “Like a Rolling Stone.” The electric masterpiece whose performance Pete Seeger tried to prevent at Newport by attempting to cut the electrical cables with an axe, the track which inspired a concert-goer at the Manchester Free Trade Hall to scream out at Dylan, “Judas!” – the rock song which birthed rock music. A six-minute long evocation of wounded friendship, rage, and rebellion. How does it feel, indeed?
After about three days of tinkering, cutting and pasting, and banging my head against the wall, I’m happy to announce that The Millions has a new address, a location on the internet from which I’m hoping it will not move.Before I go any further let me ask you to please update your bookmarks to www.themillionsblog.com. I’ve set it up so that visitors to the old blog will be redirected to the new blog automatically, but that will only be in place for a limited time. If you read The Millions via its RSS feed, that has changed as well: this is the new feed.Now, why did I do this? Well, the previous address, my Realistic Records address, was meant to be temporary. I moved my young blog there to get it off of Blogspot. At the time I knew very little about registering domains and FTPing and things like that, so I just had my friend Derek set me up on the domain he had bought for our little record label project. Well, the record label project is ancient history, I was tired of my blog’s unwieldy address, and I figured it made sense for The Millions to be on a domain that was owned by me and not someone else.Some housekeeping issues. In moving the site, I took the opportunity to change a few things, including switching commenting systems. I think the new setup will be better for conversation on the site, but unfortunately all the old comments are gone. I wanted to save them but there wasn’t any way. Also, the site search will not work for a while until the new site is indexed in Google. Finally, please let me know if you are encountering any difficulties viewing the new site or if you find any broken links. You can email me here.Thanks!