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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: September ::
Dylan, Shakespeare, Nabokov: Authorized or Not?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0569  Sunday, 28 September 2008

From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:       Sunday, September 28, 2008
Subject:    Dylan, Shakespeare, Nabokov: Authorized or Not?

[Editor Note: Ron Rosenbaum (of _Shakespeare Wars_ in which SHAKSPER plays a 
small role) has a terrific essay in Slate that is inspired by the upcoming 
release of the latest addition to the Dylan authorized versions of the 
unauthorized bootlegged releases -- well, I hope you get the idea. Excerpts 
below with a link to complete essay. --HMCook]

Shakespeare's Bootlegger, Dylan's Biographer, Nabokov, and MeWhen should an 
unauthorized version be authorized?
By Ron Rosenbaum
Posted Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008, at 5:02 PM ET on Slate

http://www.slate.com/id/2200412/

There's a new Dylan album-well, the eighth volume in the so-called "Bootleg 
Series"-coming out Oct. 7. The albums in the Bootleg Series, you probably know, 
each contain a selection from the vast corpus of unreleased tracks, variant 
versions, live performances, and the like that had previously been circulated, 
if at all, on unauthorized, semi-legal tapes and CDs. The Bootleg Series is the 
authorized version of the unauthorized versions.

[ . . . ]

In the course of checking on this, I learned of another forthcoming Dylan 
release: In November, Simon and Schuster will issue a recently rediscovered 
Dylan literary effort, a book of some 23 poems from the '60s inspired by 
photographer Barry Feinstein's moody black-and-white shots of Hollywood. Not 
exactly a bootleg (you may have seen two of the poems excerpted in The New 
Yorker recently) but new light on his mind at the time.

But this isn't primarily a column about Dylan-although it's interesting the way 
Dylan is turning into a kind of never-ending artist, the Philip Roth of iconic 
singer-songwriters. But Dylan culture, especially Dylan bootleg culture, figures 
into the way we assess "authorized" and "unauthorized" work by other great 
artists such as Shakespeare and Nabokov. (No, I'm not equating them.) Let me 
explain.

I recently learned from one of the foremost Dylan biographers, Clinton Heylin, 
that he has a book coming out next year on Shakespeare's sonnets, which he 
believes will illuminate an enduring-and significant- Shakespeare mystery: 
whether the original 1609 edition of the sonnets was authorized by Shakespeare 
or is, in effect, an unauthorized, 17th-century bootleg. Heylin told me he plans 
to argue that the 1609 edition was a bootleg. Not (please!) an edition authored 
by "someone other than Shakespeare," as the "anti-Stratfordian" (or 
someone-else-wrote-Shakespeare) cult believes but an edition 
published-authorized-by someone other than Shakespeare. (Some have argued that 
Shakespeare circulated the sonnets only privately among friends because of the 
potentially scandalous homoerotic content of some.)

Why does it matter whether the sonnets were authorized or bootlegged? Because if 
the sonnets were not published deliberately by Shakespeare, perhaps we would 
spend less time arguing about the order of the 154 poems. And there would be 
less justification for the enormous amounts of time the biographical fetishists 
devote to spinning stories from that order, figuring out the identities of the 
real "fair youth"-the subject of a number of homoerotic sonnets-and the real 
"dark lady"-the subject of a number of embittered ones.

We might instead pay closer attention to each individual sonnet as an aesthetic 
whole, rather than trying to assess what each one "means" in relation to the 
sonnets that come before and after and the supposed relationships they parallel 
and chronicle.

I don't deny that there are linkages in imagery, theme, and language among the 
sonnets. But it would be helpful, I think, to get rid of the distortions of gossip.

Heylin believes he will prove who, in fact, bootlegged the sonnets, but he wants 
to keep the identity-and motive-of the culprit secret until closer to his 
publication day next year in May 2009, the 400th anniversary of the sonnets' 
first publication.

[ . . . ]


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