Presque vu V
The publishing Web site Bowker reported that there were more new book titles sold in Great Britain last year – 206,000 new titles, an increase of 28 percent – than in the United States -172,000 new titles, a decrease of 18 percent.
This is from Rilke’s third Sonnet to Orpheus:
. . . song is existence. Easy for the god. But
when do we exist? And when does he spend
the earth and the stars on our being?
When we love? That’s what you think when
not so, though your voice forces open your mouth, –
learn to forget how you sang. That fades.
Real singing is a different kind of breath.
A nothing-breath. A ripple in the god. A wind.
The Devil seeks out the writer and says, ‘I will make you the best writer of your generation. Listen, never mind generation – the best writer of this century. Even this millennium. I will make you not only the best, but the most famous, the richest, and I’ll make you very influential so all other writers will copy your style and your glory will live for ever. All you have to do is sell me your grandmother, your mother, your partner, your kids, your dog and your soul.’
‘Sure, says the writer. You got it. Absolutely – give me the pen, where do I sign?’ Then there is a visible hesitation, a pulling back. ‘Just a minute,’ looking the Devil right in the eye. ‘What’s the catch?’
Bob Dylan’s first new album in five years is Modern Times. And it was worth waiting for. A mixture of blues, swing and rock’n’roll with Dylan’s soft voice and some surprisingly catchy melodies. The title is a nod to the 1936 Chaplin film of the same name, which showed The Tramp struggling to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman. Seventy years later, Dylan depicts the lower classes returning to unsure wages, homelessness and insecurity, this time at the hand of globalization. Many of the songs on the album seem to suggest that salvation can be found in the love of a good woman, but the sixth track, Working Man’s Blues #2, has a strident chorus which includes the lines:
Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman blues.