Writer Karl Ove Knausgaard On Bob Dylan – ‘In fact, it was as if he weren’t really a person at all…’

Photo by Peter van Agtmael.

I love Karl Ove Knausgaard’s epic series of novels, My Struggle. Three have thus far been translated into English and I have read them all — and I am well aware that book four will be published and available on April 28 of this year.

I am waiting.

Meanwhile, the New York Times hired Knausgaard to spend ten days in North America, come up with something fresh to say about the U.S. and express whatever he came up with in many thousands of words.

Part two of this multi-part magazine article, “My Saga,” was published today in the New York Times Magazine.

During his time in the U.S., Knausgaard traveled in a rent-a-car with photogrpaher Peter van Agtmael.

I don’t recall anything in Knausgaard’s three books, which are novels and yet are based on his life, about Bob Dylan.

So it was relief, I must say, to learn today that Dylan means something to Knausgaard. A lot I’d say, since he clearly has listened to the six-CD Basement Tapes set released late last year.

Here’s Knausgaard on Bob Dylan and a visit to Dylan’s childhood home in Duluth, Minnesota. (Dylan was born in Duluth and lived there until he was six years old.)

Peter wanted to see Bob Dylan’s childhood home, so we drove there first; it was just a few blocks away, up a steep hill behind the hotel. It looked exactly like all the other houses in the neighborhood, a small wooden duplex with a grassy patch in front. There was no sign indicating that Bob Dylan grew up here, nor was there a statue of him. That seemed appropriate, for in contrast to the other 1960s artists who were still alive, there was nothing about Bob Dylan to remind one of a statue, nothing about his music or his role had become rigid or clearly defined, no final form enclosed him. In fact, it was as if he weren’t really a person at all, but had somehow dissolved into his music. His old songs were constantly in motion, and the new songs emerged from the same stream. As he traveled around, permanently on tour, you couldn’t tell what came from him and what belonged to the American song tradition; he was just playing the music. On “The Basement Tapes,” you can hear how he discovers this mode for the first time, how he begins to live in the music, as he keeps tossing out one tune after the other, song after song, some of it fantastic, some of it junk, some of it interesting, some of it nonsense, and it doesn’t matter in the slightest, for the whole point is the lightness; that all demands for perfection and completion, for flawlessness, have been suspended; and the motion.

All writers, artists and musicians know the feeling: when you disappear into what you are doing, lose yourself in it and are no longer aware that you exist, while at the same time the feeling of existing is profound and total and what you make is never better. Work created in this state really shouldn’t be published in the artist’s name, because it has been created precisely by the artist’s nonpersonal, nonindividual, selfless side. Bob Dylan is the master of the selfless self, the king of the not-one’s-one, a deeply paradoxical figure who lived and breathed the music of this deeply paradoxical country.

“I know it’s idiotic,” Peter said, “but could you take a photo of me in front of his house?”

Afterward, Peter wanted to take some more photos of Duluth and Superior, and I drove slowly over the long bridges that connected them above the port area while he took shot after shot through the open window. The sky was gray, the concrete was gray, the snow that pressed against the side of the road was gray, and the landscape that spread out beneath us, full of warehouses, cranes, silos, fences, access roads and quays, and beyond, enormous factories spewing out smoke — all of this was gray, too. I couldn’t believe this was the same magical place we had seen the previous evening, when we emerged from the dark woods and saw those enormous, blinking red towers stretching toward the sky.

In the daylight, we now saw that they were not towers, not skyscrapers, but simply a row of slender antennas, the very plainest kind, for transmitting radio, phone or TV signals.

Read Part One and Part Two.

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

[I published my novel, True Love Scars, in August of 2014.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book. Read it here. And Doom & Gloom From The Tomb ran this review which I dig. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

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