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Fu Manchu, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Bob Dylan’s JOKERMAN: towards a slippery gray Warmuthian model of intertextuality on the muddiest superhighway in the universe Further to Rimbaud’s 24 May 2010 article ‘Bob Dylan’s JOKERMAN and the ‘Invisible’ Confederation of Zombies in His New Orleans Attic’, shamelessly plagiarized by Scott Warmuth: for self-contradicting drainpipe sniffers who peer (only) on the ‘surface waste’ of the pools of the latter’s blatent Goon Talk plagiarism (see post 9 May 2010). ‘Oceans of amateurish specious commentary’ rushes in where a keynote fears to tread but doesn’t mind lurking. Who’ll get there first is uncertain. Beware of ro’shing in to feed the rabbinically proscribed demonic forces (from entirely outside the context of salvation history) – especially at Passover. The gray mist drove by us like a rain. This style seemed to be oblivious to their existence. Very Miltonian. Why get bogged down in the process when you can just rush out a quick result? Sniffing drainpipes and reciting the alphabet.
Through many a dark and dreary vale They passed, and many a region dolorous, O'er many a frozen, many a fiery alp, Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death. ~Paradise Lost, II.618.
Who are ‘they’? Jumbis? A poststructural keynote, p 506:
The intimations of menace erupt at once after these lines into the effulgent, cacophonous detail of firepower that paranoid America deploys: Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks, Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain,
Myopic hermeneutic schizophrenia – and self-indulgent armchair-Lefty Reagan paranoia. A keynote for the motherless poststructuralist children: a sudden leap from first-century Galilee-Palestine to twentieth-century America without explanation or a mention one time of JOKERMAN’s own keynote shifting time frame. BLIND WILLIE McTELL monomania – oblivious to Infidels’s (partially Raeben-fuelled) wider ‘code in the lyrics’ and fearful symmetry. Larry Yudelson of Tangled Up in Jews:
Who'll get there first is uncertain: Salvation is no longer guaranteed. Faith is not what it used to be. Is it up to the Jokerman to save the sick and the lame? Will he make the effort? The political world is full of strife, of violent uprisings (the Palestinian Intifada begun in 1987 was not the first time in the decade that Israel hosted nightsticks, tear gas, Molotov cocktails and rocks). And it will get worse, the
apocalypse is at hand. Only a matter of time until night comes stepping in. (Or is this only a false-hearted judgement of a web spinner?)
Dylan’s JOKERMAN (1983):
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, Both of their futures, so full of dread, you don’t show one. Shedding off one more layer of skin, Keeping one step ahead of the persecutor within. Only a matter of time ‘til night comes steppin’ in.
From Sax Rohmer’s The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu, cut and pasted from Scott Warmuth without checking (the best writers do it):
My heart thumping furiously in my breast, I bent over him; and for the second time since our coming to Cragmire Tower, my thoughts flew to "The Fenman." There are shades in the fen; ghosts of women and men Who have sinned and have died, but are living again. O'er the waters they tread, with their lanterns of dread, And they peer in the pools--in the pools of the dead.... A light was dancing out upon the moor, a witch-light that came and went unaccountably, up and down, in and out, now clearly visible, now masked in the darkness! "Lock the door!" snapped my companion--"if there's a key." I crept across the room and fumbled for a moment; then-"There is no key," I reported.
The skeleton keys in the rain. Scott Warmuth:
One of my favorite lines in the A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake is, "Not until a sufficient number of readers have survived thousands of independent plunges will our Key become obsolete."
Indeed. Jumbi is (not) the (only) thing the Dylan literati didn’t do. The key is Frank. The key is Scott. The key is Michael. Warmuth, quoting Joni Mitchell: Shadows and Light by Karen O'Brien, p. 128:
Each 'relationship' song is held up to the light, scrutinized, examined for clues and hidden secrets, energized by a reluctance to accept mystery, to accept that it's good to be puzzled sometimes, that it's a gift not to be presented with the transparently obvious time and time again, because in that space created by not knowing, we can imagine, we can relate, we can endow work with the value, if any, that it holds for us. Significant writing uses mystery, abstraction, subtlety and skill to enable us to do that. As the writer and critic Susan Sontag observed, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art and the world: 'To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of "meanings"'.
In the coming years, Mitchell would express her frustration at the often wildly inaccurate theories about her lyrics and their subjects, theories that destroy the listener's ability to make the song their own. Michael Stipe of REM has articulated the same frustration: I really don't want to reveal anything about a character or a song because I can remember, as a teenager, a record falling into my lap, and how magical and mysterious and revolutionary and unbelievably life-altering even one song on a record like that can be. I would hate to diminish or be unfaithful to that notion. Plus, I maintain that my take, my interpretation of what my songs are about, is, in the whole world, the least important take. I wrote them but that does not give me some divine insight into their meaning.
The key is Professor John Bryant - professorial finger of the new Dylanological wisdom:
I’m only the professorial finger of the new Dylanological wisdom. MICHAEL: Away!
Michael’s critical walking shoes of in_olence are almost worn out. Warmuth:
Dylan also uses some Jack London when he brings up Greil Marcus. He writes, "Greil Marcus, the music historian, would some thirty years later call it 'the invisible republic.' Whatever the case, it wasn't that I was anti-popular culture or anything and I had no ambitions to stir things up. I just thought of mainstream culture as lame as hell and a big trick. It was like the unbroken sea of frost that lay outside the window and you had to have awkward footgear to walk on it."
Awkward footgear, indeed. ‘I’ve made shoes for everyone’. Mysterious and revolutionary words of intertextuality, amateurish specious commentary, on the muddiest superhighway in the universe – for drainpipe sniffers to meditate on. And that’s a cold frozen fact. ‘I went to tell everybody but I could not get across’. In 2003 or so I emailed the editor of a Bob Dylan magazine with a suggestion of what might be around the corner. He replied: ‘Paul, this is of an entirely different style of writing altogether, impressionistic …’ I wasn’t submitting the email for publication. But, in spite of having written in a book on Dylan lyrics about how TAKES A LOT TO LAUGH, TAKES A TRAIN TO CRY cleverly conveyed how Dylan’s mid-Sixties work was pushing the boundaries of language, he failed to get the remotest impression of what the Dylan world might have been missing in terms of cut-and-paste methods in Dylan’s Seventies and Eighties ‘stream of consciousness’. This did not start with “Love & Theft” (2001)! All he would have had to have done is google certain phrases to get the Junichi Saga, Timrod, Ovid or Henry Rollins of Dylan’s Seventies or Eighties work. But clearly Masquered & Anonymous was of far more interest. Renaldo.
‘Some songs come on a stream of consciousness,’ Dylan once explained. ‘They just come out because the words sound good, and then later on you can find meaning behind them, but I'm not one to explain the songs I write.’ REM sleep. Let’s try to get beneath the surface waist, girl; standing on the water(s) casting your bread. JOKERMAN: a song that makes an attack on your most vulnerable spots, sharp words from a master. A keynote, p 465:
… this wasn’t a tyger at all. No fearful symmetry here, no burning bright, no fire in the eyes.
Well, not if your critical head is made out of iron. The breadcrumb sins of the complacent Dylan literati, who, while proscribing the shovelling of a glimpse by others, publish books and lurk in ditch-blogs on the ‘muddiest superhighway in the universe’ – like dogs waiting to feed (on morsels to knock their neighbours inside out). Wicked birds of prey cover up, out of charity, their breadcrumb sins of omission. Tangled up in Bob:
Leading Dylanologist Christopher Ricks concludes his obsessive pursuit of an elusive quarry in Dylan's Visions of Sin Sean O'Hagan Sunday September 14, 2003 The Observer Dylan's Visions of Sin by Christopher Ricks Viking £25, pp517 Bob Dylan is fast becoming rock's equivalent of James Joyce, his singular and continuing body of work increasingly picked over by academics and biographers.
Like breadcrumbs? A J Weberman, from his older, dylanology.com website, circa 2000, now defunct:
POETRY AND CODES I am a Database Compiler and an Information Analyist by profession. I am the president of Independent Research Associates located in New York City. I crack codes. Dylan's codes rhyme and are put to music, great music. As far as impenetrability, Dylan's code is on a level worthy of a study by the National Security Administration. As far as literature goes, he may be on the level of James Joyce or William Blake. He is a classic symbolist poet.
But are the codes on his level? (And does Weberman proofread his codes?). From a reference work I may name later:
But where the three-term relationship breaks down there is no ‘as-if’’ dynamic to which ours may respond: no bridges are built by shared metaphor. This kind of breakdown approaches the state of the schizophrenic who, as Kasanin points out,
cannot symbolise. With this type of schizoid poetry we require an external knowledge of the problems of the individual in order to supply a meaning to their utterance.
Fort-Lauderdale, Sun Sentinel today 29/9/95:
A MIDNIGHT CHAT WITH BOB DYLAN Interview by John Dolen Q: "Angelina", off the Bootleg Series, is such a great song, but no matter how hard I try I can't figure out the words; any clues for me? A: I never try to figure out what they're about. If you have to think about it, then it's not there.
A keynote on the Jokerman’s sister:
I can find no scriptural rationale for Dylan’s envigoratingly deviant surprise ending to these lines. It’s a twister …
This is because Stipe misidentified the primary level, at least, on which the Jokerman’s identity works: a Christological booby trap with ‘labyrinthine possibilities’. I happen to have 300 pages on these lines. Entirely specious, of course. Even spurious. Bob On The Net
All Of F.Scott Fitzgerald's Books By Terry Kelly In certain moods, I feel some Dylan criticism is ultimately a form of intellectual wishful thinking, with academics discerning literary structures and intentions, tropes and apparent lyrical significance which are more truly the result of happenstance, serendipity, plain good luck and the exigencies of rhyme than part of any grand artistic game plan.
Robert Graves in The White Goddess pp 337 and 339:
Poets will know what I mean by slantwise: it is a way of looking through a difficult word or phrase to discover the meaning lurking behind the letters … The proleptic or analeptic method of thought, though necessary to poets, physicians, historians and the rest, is so easily confused with mere guessing, or deduction from insufficient data, that few of them own to using it. However securely I buttress the argument of this book with quotations, citations and footnotes, the admission that I have made here of how it first came to me will debar it from consideration by orthodox scholars: though they cannot refute it, they dare not accept it.
Building a richer house, Scott Warmuth – but how keen is Greil Marcus on other critics? Daniel Karlin to me by email, 23 May 2011:
You won't be allowed in to the conference if you show up.
Ever gone the opposite of what the experts say? Tell Me. Paul Kirkman 2011. Permission (only) to Scott Warmuth to plagiarize.