Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Luke Baumgarten & r & Dylan to English Dictionary by A.L. Weberman & r & A.J. Weberman's Dylan to English Dictionary is an unbelievably strange read. It has the veneer of a scholarly text, but the substance of personal infatuation and scorned love. He offers detailed, near-religious analysis of Dylan's songs and poetry, claiming to have found 600-odd words that mean the same thing throughout all of the singer's work (rain equals, roughly, heroin, for example).


It's the kind of treatment given to things like the Talmud and other religious works of supreme significance; here, however, it carries a personal taint. "Bob Dylan is the poet laureate of his generation; however. he is over-rated as a human being," says Weberman on his publisher's Web site. In the volume's preface, entitled "Where It All Began" -- and before explaining the significance of academic terms like "least ambiguous usage" and "lesser-used meanings" -- Weberman admits that the idea of performing exegesis on Dylan originally came to him after scoring "an unlimited supply of LSD." Weberman then offers a warning: "If you think [Dylan's] poetry is just a surreal stream-of-consciousness abstraction, put this dictionary back on the shelf where you and it belong." If you're not as smart as Weberman is, in other words, he doesn't want you reading his book. And in Weberman's mind, there's no one as smart as Weberman.


That no one has yet recognized Weberman's genius after nearly 40 years of rhapsodizing about Dylan -- least of all Dylan himself, who once beat up Weberman for digging through his garbage -- is ultimately the injustice the Dylan to English Dictionary seeks to rectify. Despite what Weberman says about the book's radical new deciphering of "Dylan's secret language," this is Weberman's intellectual coming-out.


These personal threads are woven throughout, and if you read the book with an ear for Weberman's secret language, it slowly turns what should be a clinical analysis into something more significant, sad and, ultimately, perversely touching. Behind his painstaking cross-analyses whisper the ravages of age and, after 40 years of sifting through trash, utter futility. Ideally, this would have been a dialogue between Weberman and his subject, but the chances of that happening died probably around the time Dylan pounded his face into the sidewalk at Elizabeth Street 30 years ago. The substitute for that is this, a work of profound and unrequited love that, like most such works, will be read by very few and hold meaning for almost no one besides the author.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Recall and Response
  • Recall and Response

    The attempt to remove Spokane Mayor David Condon from office may be a long shot, but he isn't taking any chances
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Shades of Black Lives
  • Shades of Black Lives

    A Spokane County detective's Facebook post about Black Lives Matter sparks debate among local law enforcement
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Fires Hit Home
  • Fires Hit Home

    Tens of thousands of acres burn around Spokane on Sunday and Monday; plus, DOJ weighs in on concerns over bail system
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Coeur d'Alene Classic Boat Festival

Coeur d'Alene Classic Boat Festival @ Coeur d'Alene

Sat., Aug. 27 and Sun., Aug. 28

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • 'Unreasonable Threat to Life and Property'

    Spokane's rental housing has problems, but landlord and tenant groups are split on a solution
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • 'End of Story'

    Condon administration aims to close the controversial Frank Straub chapter — but last week's scathing report has irrevocably changed the narrative
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Shorty's Last Dance
  • Shorty's Last Dance

    Remembering Delbert "Shorty" Belton
    • Jan 7, 2015
  • Letters from Mark
  • Letters from Mark

    A mother tries to understand the suicide of a son — just as he was regaining his freedom
    • Jan 14, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation