The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0569 Sunday, 28 September 2008
From: Hardy M. Cook <
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
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
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
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'
[ . . . ]
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Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
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