30 May 2011

A novel, a blog, and Bob Dylan

I can't seem to get back into the blogging groove.  I can't even keep Library Thing updated with my "what I'm reading" and "recently read" lists.  I have been reading as much as I can manage; I'm cramming for ChLA like I think it's a final exam.  When the program came out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was better read in the source material than I had anticipated.  I'll save those books and my comments for the July blog after I've come home.

The HelpSEASONS (my women-reading-theology group) has decided to offer a special summer program based on the book and soon to be released movie, The Help by Kathryn Stockett which I read on Kindle.  I will probably blog much more about this book later also.  I'll limit today's comment to Stockett's decision to break the novel's timeline in order to include the lyric of Bob Dylan's The times they are achangin'. On page 352, Skeeter hears the song on the car radio. "It is better than anything I've ever heard... I feel a rush of inexplicable relief.  I feel I've just heard something from the future."  The novel is set in 1962 and Dylan's song was first played 26 October 1963.  I don't understand why Stockett didn't just push her timeline.  A later date would have allowed her to make use of the selective service draft which throughout most of the South took "coloreds and white trash" first. The conscription and death of young black men "in the white man's war" in Viet Nam served as a call to action for the civil rights movement.  I, however, did not write this book; the teller of the tale gets to make such decisions.  I basically liked The Help and thought it spoke truth.

My reading of Stockett's book came shortly before Bob Dylan's  70th birthday so I revisited the music of my youth.  As I recall I first heard Bob Dylan on the floor of my dorm room probably in the fall of 1968.  I had to learn to appreciate Dylan as a musician--it was a totally new sound--but I recognized at once that he was a great poet.  Malcolm Guite--British poet, singer-songwriter, and priest--writes a blog which I enjoy for its insight on the intersections of literature and Christianity.  In a 2008 article published in The Tablet, Malcolm Guite demonstrates how Dylan layers time and echoes biblical text. 
Turning again to the song that Stockett thought so essential to her story that she broke the timeline to quote the last two lines of the first stanza, I have added a few notes in red in The times they are a-changin' by Bob Dylan:

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters       whelming waters                      
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you                  "redeeming the time"
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'  rejection of status quo
Or you'll sink like a stone        Jesus: "better a millstone"
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics       Stockett's novel is about writing
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon     there is a long silence, time of waiting
For the wheel's still in spin  Bible is not the only religion's imagery
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'                    who is named in Skeeter's book
For the loser now                  Jesus:  last shall be first
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen    Stuart's father is a senator
Please heed the call                   Hilly's husband is running for office
Don't stand in the doorway       Hilly's husband loses election
Don't block up the hall              Stuart's father has more open views
For he that gets hurt                  but will not speak them publicly
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers       lots of mothers in novel
Throughout the land
And don't criticize                   Skeeter's mom & Elizabeth criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is                     Psalm 1, the way of the wicked
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one   road blocks to stop activists
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn         novel is all about boundaries
The curse it is cast          this image is about prophecy
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now       again Jesus: last shall be first
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/]

listen to Bob Dylan at the White House Celebration of Music of the Civil Rights Movement.